By Kalsang Rinchen
Dharamsala, January 6 – China has sentenced to six years imprisonment a Tibetan filmmaker who exposed China’s ‘wronged policies’ and the Tibetan people’s loyalty to the exile Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama through a documentary film
titled “leaving fear behind”.
Though it is not exactly known where Dhondup’s trial took place it is believed that he was tried in a court in Xining, where he has been held since his arrest. The sentence, according to Gejong Tsetrin, his cousin in Switzerland who helped distribute the film, was announced on December 28, 2009.
Chinese authorities arrested Wangchen and his monk assistant Jigme Gyatso in March 2008, amidst growing anti-China unrest in Tibet, for their role in making the documentary “Jigdrel” or “Leaving Fear Behind". Jigme, however, was released on October 15, 2008.
Wangchen and Jigme traveled to remote corners in the eastern region of Amdo and across the Tibetan plateau from October 2007 to March 2008 filming over thirty five hours of interviews. The tapes were sent out in March 2008 to Switzerland, where Wangchen's cousin Gyaljong Tsetrin put the final cut together and distributed it.
The film features twenty ethnic Tibetans; their views on the Beijing Olympics, the present situation inside the country and calls for the return of the Dalai Lama.
Since August 2008, “Leaving Fear Behind” has been screened in more than 30 countries worldwide and translated into five languages, including Chinese.
Dhondup Wangchen’s family had hired Li Dunyong, a Beijing based Chinese lawyer, who earlier visited the Tibetan filmmaker at his detention center in Xining but was stopped by the local Chinese authorities and law authorities in Beijing. The Chinese government denied the right of legal representation to Wangchen in July 2009 saying a local lawyer under the same jurisdiction as the court where the case is pending must handle Dhondup’s case.
Wangchen was reportedly in poor health, suffering from Hepatitis B, according to his wife Lhamo Tso, who lives in exile. “He is not receiving proper medical treatment, she had told reporters in July 2009.
Wangchen says on the official website
of his film, “the idea of our film is not to get famous or to give entertainment. But at a time of great difficulty and a feeling of helplessness, it is for us to show such a film to get some meaningful response and results. It is very difficult [for Tibetans] to go to Beijing and speak out there. So that is why we decided to show the real feelings of Tibetans inside Tibet through this film.”