Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen
DHARAMSHALA, January 22: After suffering harsh treatment and months of solitary confinement at the Xichuan labour camp in Siling, eastern Tibet, Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen has been shifted to a women’s prison.
Calling it “an unusual move,” the Switzerland based group Filming for Tibet, which supports the work of Tibetan filmmakers, said Wangchen has been transferred to the Qinghai Provincial Women's Prison, the main prison for women in China's Qinghai province.
Self-taught filmmaker Wangchen conceived and shot the film "Leaving Fear Behind" (Tib:Jigdrel) to portray life in Tibet in advance of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. He was arrested on March 26, 2008 for filming interviews with ordinary Tibetans on their views on the Beijing Olympics, the Dalai Lama and Chinese government’s policies in Tibet.
Shortly after his footage was smuggled overseas, Wangchen disappeared into Chinese detention. He was sentenced to six years in prison for “subversion” on December 28, 2009 following a secret trial. In January 2010, he was denied appeal.
The latest development was learned following a visit to Wangchen by close family members on January 15, 2013, during which he spoke of previous harsh treatment at Xichuan labour camp, including several months of solitary confinement that started in March 2012.
Now being held in “improved conditions,” Wangchen and his family members are unaware of the reasons for his transfer, particularly to a women's prison with “no other Tibetan inmates or political prisoners.”
"Although we are relieved to hear that Dhondup Wangchen is in stable health, we share Dhondup Wangchen's own concerns as he says he feels isolated and alone in this prison," said Gyaljong Tsetrin, cousin of Dhondup Wangchen and President of "Filming for Tibet".
"There is still well over a year until Dhondup Wangchen will have served his six-year sentence for making 'Leaving Fear Behind', it is our wish that in this time Dhondup Wangchen suffers no maltreatment and be granted access to books so that he can study, something he has repeatedly requested but has been forbidden from doing."
It has been reported that Wangchen contracted Hepatitis B in prison and is in poor health.
International calls for his release received a major boost last year when Wangchen was awarded
the Committee to Protect Journalists' 2012 ‘International Press Freedom Award.’
The US based global press freedom group recognised Wangchen’s efforts for his “courageous reporting” and “risking his life and liberty to reveal abuses of power and human rights violations.”
Wangchen’s hard-hitting documentary has been screened in over 30 countries with his wife Lhamo Tso travelling internationally to campaign for her husband's release.
In November last, Chinese authorities framed murder charges
against Golog Jigme Gyatso, a Tibetan monk who assisted Wangchen, after he went missing in September 2012 and was feared arrested.
Chinese officials in Kanlho made an announcement offering 2,00,000 Chinese Yuan (US$32,116) for information on Jigme, alleging charges of murder. Local Tibetans expressed fear that Jigme could have died in prison after suffering severe torture at the hands of Chinese prison guards.