By Tenzin Dharpo
Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (in red) meets with Dhondup Wangchen in San Francisco, US on Jan. 14, 2017.
DHARAMSHALA, Jan. 16: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi gave a public welcome to former Tibetan political prisoner Dhondup Wangchen on Jan. 14, sources said. The Congresswoman acknowledged that Dhondup made “courageous escape” from Tibet and that he is welcome to San Francisco where he now lives with his wife and three children.
"I want to acknowledge one newcomer to our country. His name is Dhondup Wangchen. He has escaped from Tibet in a very courageous way. He was arrested because he made a film about freedom and he was in prison for awhile. When he was released he made his way out of captivity to freedom. And now he is with us and with his family in San Francisco," Pelosi told her supporters at her new year's celebration meet on Sunday in San Francisco.
The veteran Democratic politician also met Wangchen and his family before the official ceremony and assured meetings with her in Washington DC in the near future. Wangchen reportedly briefed her about his situation as well as the current situation in Tibet.
Wangchen reached US last month and was reunited with his wife and three children on Christmas day. Switzerland based NGO Filming for Tibet said that “Dhondup Wangchen was able to successfully evade the authorities and flee from his home area in Tibet and then the People’s Republic of China altogether.”
Between 2007 to 2008, Wangchen, 43, and his filming assistant Golog Jigme interviewed and filmed 108 Tibetans from various parts of Tibet, discussing the political situation and repressive Chinese rule in the lead up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The documentary film ‘Leaving Fear behind’ extracted from over 40 hours of raw footage was later released worldwide by Zurich-based Filming for Tibet and Dhondup Wangchen’s cousin, Gyaljong Tsetrin.
Both Dhondup and Jigme were later detained by Chinese authorities in March 2008 for making the documentary film. In Dec. 2009, after over a year of being held incommunicado, Dhondup Wangchen was sentenced to six years in prison for “inciting subversion”. His friend and assistant, Tibetan monk Golok Jigme, suffered detention and torture. Jigme escaped to India in 2014, and was later given asylum by Switzerland where he resides now.
Dhondup Wangchen suffered torture and manual labor during his sentence and contracted Hepatitis B in prison. Even after his release from a prison in Qinghai’s provincial capital Xining on June 5, 2014, Wangchen continued to be heavily watched and put under surveillance by Chinese authorities.
The Tibetan activist and filmmaker, his people said, will make public discourses surrounding his escape and tell his story in due time.