Dhondup Wangchen released after serving six-year sentence

DHARAMSALA, June 6: Dhondup Wangchen, the self-taught Tibetan filmmaker-activist who made the documentary film “Leaving Fear Behind” was released on June 5 after serving a six-year sentence, a statement by Filming for Tibet (FFT), the Switzerland-based production house that produced the documentary said.

After his release from a prison in Xining, the provincial capital of Qinghai, he was driven by the police to his sister’s home in Khotse, about 2 hours ride from Xining.

Dhondup Wangchen thanked all those who supported him while he was in prison and hoped to recover his health and reunite with his family.

Dhondup Wangchen upon his release. (Photo: Filming for Tibet)
Dhondup Wangchen upon his release. (Photo: Filming for Tibet)

“At this moment, I feel that everything inside me is in a sea of tears. I hope to recover my health soon. I would like to express my feeling of deepest gratitude for all the support I received while in prison and I want to be reunited with my family,” the statement quoted Dhondup Wangchen as telling his cousin and president of FFT, Gyaljong Tsetrin in a phone call.

Dhondup’s wife, Lhamo Tso who has been living in the US since 2012 was overjoyed upon hearing about her husband’s release.

“Six years of injustice and painful counting the days ended today.  It is a day of unbelievable joy for his parents in Dharamsala, our children and myself. We look forward to be reunited as a family,” the statement quoted Lhamo as saying.

Dhondup Wangchen (born 1974 in Bayen, in Qinghai/Tibet/China) was arrested in 2008 along with his monk assistant, Golog Jigme for interviewing more than 100 Tibetans in the remote areas of eastern Tibet on their opinion on the 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 for “subversion of sate power”.

His assistant, Golog Jigme was detained for seven months during which he was severely tortured by the prison authorities. After his release Jigme was constantly harassed by the authorities and rearrested on several occasions.

After escaping from Chinese prison on September 30, 2012 and hiding in the mountains for twenty months following an official order for his arrest on false murder charges, Golog Jigme managed to escape Tibet and reached safely at the Tibetan Reception Centre in Dharamsala on May 18.

The New York Times described the documentary film, “Leaving Fear Behind” as “an unadorned indictment of the Chinese government”. It premiered on August 6, 2008, in Beijing, a few days before the start of the Olympics and was clandestinely screened for foreign reporters in Beijing.

The documentary film has been translated into a dozen languages and has been screened in more than 30 countries worldwide.


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