Lhamo Tso, wife of imprisoned Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen, holds a petition for her husband at the Committee to Protect Journalists' International Freedom Awards Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria on Nov. 20, 2012 in New York City. (Photo/Getty Images for Committee to Protect Journalists/Michael Nagle)
DHARAMSHALA, November 22: The global campaign for the release of jailed Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen received a major boost with the awarding of the Committee to Protect Journalists' 2012 International Press Freedom Award.
The self-taught Tibetan documentary filmmaker, along with Mauri König (Gazeta do Povo, Brazil), Mae Azango (FrontPage Africa and New Narratives, Liberia), and Azimjon Askarov (Ferghana News and Golos Svobody, Kyrgyzstan) were recognised by the global press freedom group for their “courageous reporting” and “risking their lives and liberty to reveal abuses of power and human rights violations.”
Wangchen’s wife, Lhamo Tso was present to receive the award at a gala dinner held at the Waldorf Astoria on November 20 in New York City.
CPJ told the gathering of over 900 attendees that two on its annual awardees, Dhondup Wangchen and Azimjon Askarov were currently in jail for “holding officials accountable and helping ordinary people voice their indignation.”
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. Hewas sentenced to six years in prison for “subversion” on December 28, 2009 following a secret trial. In January 2010, he was denied appeal.
In prison Wangchen contracted Hepatitis B and has been reported in poor health.
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.
Tso, who hasn’t spoken to her husband since March 2008, told CPJ that the decision to formally release the documentary was a “very difficult” one.
"It was very difficult," she told CPJ. "He hadn't been sentenced yet. We didn't know if publicising it would hurt his chances. But in the film, so many people spoke out about their opinions, about the Dalai Lama. So many had spent time, effort, energy on this film. I thought my personal family matter was less important. The film should be shown."
Looking after their four children and his elderly parents, Tso said that applying pressure on the Chinese government does make a difference. The reason Dhondup Wangchen's working conditions improved, she said, is because of the vocal support he is getting from outside prison walls.
CPJ has also launched a petition
addressed to the Chinese President, calling for the release of Dhondup Wangchen.
Coinciding with the award, Marina Schuster, Speaker for Human Rights and Humanitarian Assistance of the Free Democratic Party at the German Federal Parliament congratulated Wangchen and demanded his immediate release from detention.
The Group of the Free Democratic Party further expressed its concern about reports of Wangchen subjected to torture and suffering from Hepatitis B while in detention and called upon the Chinese government to “pursue the path of openness and to respect fundamental human and civil rights.”