Reporters Without Borders is launching a petition for the release of Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen, was sentenced on 28 December 2009 to six years in prison. He was arrested by the Chinese authorities on 23 March 2008 while making a documentary in Tibet. “Without a major campaign on behalf of this courageous man, who took the risk of returning to his country to interview other Tibetans, the Chinese authorities will keep him in jail,” Reporters Without Borders said.
Wangchen’s wife, Lhamo Tso, who lives in the northern Indian city of Dharamsala, told Reporters Without Borders she does not know the exact reasons for his arrest. She said that he was reticent about the purpose of his trip when he set off for Tibet in October 2007. After losing touch, she finally learned that that he had been arrested in March 2008 in the Xining area in north-eastern Tibet.
She said her husband has always been “a very active man who has always wanted to do something for Tibet.” Shortly before his arrest, Wangchen said: “It is very difficult for Tibetans to go to Beijing and express themselves freely. This is why we decided to show the real feelings of the Tibetan people in a documentary.”
Wangchen was aware of the risks he was running when he made the documentary, Tso said. “Yes, he knew,” she said. “But that does not mean he does not love his family and his parents. He did it for the Tibetan people and Tibet.”
Wangchen’s film, Leaving Fear Behind (www.leavingfearbehind.com), is a 25-minute documentary that shows Tibetans in the Amdo region expressing their views on the Dalai Lama, the Beijing Olympics and Chinese legislation. Wangchen managed to send his videocassettes out of Tibet before he was arrested. The film was shown to foreign journalists in Beijing during the Olympic Games.
Wangchen made the film with the help of Jigme Gyatso, a monk from the Kham region, who was arrested at the same time. Released on 15 October 2008 from a detention centre in Kachu, in Gansu province, Gyatso said he was tortured following his arrest.