Amnesty International brings Western Regional Conference to ASU

This is ASU's first time as host to the conference

Visitors from Amnesty International's western region flocked to ASU Tempe's Memorial Union on Nov. 4 for a day of instruction, motivation and integration for its 2017 Western Regional Conference.

Amnesty International focuses on a number of issues, such as refugee and migrant rights, freedom of gender and sexual identity and the protection of specific at-risk individuals. According to its website, “We work to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth, and dignity are denied.”

According to Amnesty International's website, the Western Regional Conference seeks to "continue our tradition of engaging in networking opportunities, inspiring plenaries, and hands-on skill-building workshops.” 

This is the first time the conference has been held at ASU, said Sophie Li, a psychology and east Asian studies freshman.

Lee Goodrum, a senior in history and political science and an officer of ASU’s Amnesty International club, said he was glad the conference would be close to home.

“It’s awesome that we’re able to have this in Arizona,” Goodrum said. “Usually, it’s in California or, you know, somewhere on the West Coast where there’s more human rights stuff going on.”

Goodrum also said the location was important for a deeper reason.

“It signals the place that the students have within Amnesty as an organization but as well as within human rights and within politics in general,” Goodrum said. “Young people are driving a lot of change in the world and I’m really excited to see that.”

ASU's Falun Dafa club hosted a booth at the conference. Sophie Li, one of the club's officers, said it was spreading awareness about Falun Dafa persecution.

“(Falun Dafa) practices truthfulness, compassion and forbearance,” Li said. “However, the meditation, or as we call it ourselves, cultivation, is persecuted since 1988 in China, by the Communist Party.”

According to a website dedicated to documenting the Falun Dafa persecution, the practice is under fire because "no powerful group or groups that could potentially become powerful are allowed to exist inside of China that are not directly overseen by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party)." The methods used to enforce this ultimatum include, but are not limited to: torture, killing, and forced labor, the site said.

Li said the club attends the West Regional Conference regularly but this year offered new opportunities. 

“If we can talk about it more here, it’ll be really effective, and I think the theme for this year is human rights … so it connects well.”

Read more: "ASU meditators practice Falun Dafa without fear of persecution"

Mikala Teramoto, a UA student and Amnesty International volunteer, said the conference included a number of states including Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona and Colorado. She said Arizona was chosen for 2017 due to several admirable qualities.

“ASU has the best functioning chapter right now,” Teramoto said. “Between ASU’s presence at Amnesty International in addition to the fact that they have a big central campus, it made them really good.”

Lee Goodrum said the ASU Amnesty chapter has high hopes for the club in the future.

“We’re really focusing more heavily on the political climate and discrimination within our own community, doing what we can to help support campaigns to make all of our fellow students, fellow residents of Tempe in Arizona, feel like they can be comfortable in their community,” he said.


Reach the reporter at Trevor.Hutchins@asu.edu or follow @TrevorMHutchins on Twitter.

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