By Tenzin Dharpo
Dhondup Wangchen, (centre), with officials from the US State Department in Washington DC on Feb. 12, 2018. Photo- Filming for Tibet
DHARAMSHALA, Feb. 13: The Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen who escaped to the United States last month from Tibet met with officials from the US government in Washington DC on Monday, sources said.
A Switzerland based NGO, ‘Filming for Tibet’, that spearheaded Wangchen’s plight said on their social media page that the Tibetan filmmaker and activist met with officials from the US State Department.
Dhondup Wangchen met with Scott Busby and Mike Kozak, both serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor and for multilateral and global issues, and Laura Stone, Deputy Assistant. Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific, as well as other officials from the State Department. Matteo Meccaci, President of International Campaign for Tibet, Jamyang Tsuiltrim and Dechen Pemba from Filming for Tibet accompanied the Dhondup during the meetings.
“There was great interest for his personal story and his view on the present situation in Tibet. Dhondup Wangchen assured them: Tibetans in Tibet have not given up their struggle for freedom,” the post read.
The Tibetan activist who made the documentary film ‘Leaving Fear Behind’, announced in December that he had reached US and was reunited with his exiled family in San Francisco, US.
Between 2007 to 2008, Wangchen 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.
Dhondup Wangchen and Golog 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.
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.
His film has received acclaimed following in capturing the grassroots Tibetan psyche and highlighted the feelings and emotions of Tibetans under Chinese rule. The documentary received international awards including Committee to Protect Journalists International Press Freedom Award in 2012 and the Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent in 2014.