By Lobsang Tenchoe
DHARAMSALA, Dec 27: Dhondup Wangchen, the self-taught Tibetan filmmaker-activist has escaped from Tibet and reunited with his family on Christmas day in the US.
“Tibetan video activist Dhondup Wangchen arrived to safety in San Francisco on the afternoon of 25 December, after an arduous and risky escape from Tibet and the People’s Republic of China,” Filming for Tibet (FFT), the Switzerland-based production house that produced his documentary film ‘Leaving Fear Behind’ said in a press release.
“After many years, this is the first time I’m enjoying the feeling of safety and freedom. I would like to thank everyone who made it possible for me to hold my wife and children in my arms again. However, I also feel the pain of having left behind my country, Tibet,” Dhondup Wangchen was quoted as saying in the release after reuniting with his family in the US.
After years of tireless campaigning for her husband, Dhondup Wangchen’s wife Lhamo Tso and their four children were granted political asylum in the US in 2012. His monk assistant, Golok Jigme was able to escape from Tibet to India in May 2014 and was granted political asylum in Switzerland in 2015, the release stated.
Wangpo Tethong, the spokesperson from Filming for Tibet has described the Tibetan filmmaker-activist as a courageous individual who never gave up his beliefs in basic human rights and freedoms.
“He felt he had no choice but to flee Tibet which was an extremely risky and dangerous escape. The fact is that he should never have been detained, imprisoned and tortured by China for filming and giving air to Tibetan grievances. Now he’s finally free to speak out,” Wangpo Tethong said.
The Tibetan filmmaker-activist’s journey to safety has taken over ten years and the Switzerland-based production house has acknowledged the help and support of numerous private individuals, artists, groups, organisations and governments along the way.
Dhondup Wangchen, born 1974 in Bayen, Northeastern Tibet was arrested in 2008 along with his monk assistant, Golog Jigme for interviewing more than 100 Tibetans in remote areas of eastern Tibet on their opinion on Beijing Olympics, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and about their lives under Chinese rule. The tapes were smuggled into exile and made into a 25-minute documentary film-“Leaving Fear Behind”.
Dhondup Wangchen was sentenced to six years in prison on December 28, 2009 on the charges of ‘subversion of state power’ and was released on June 5, 2014.