by Luke Warner
Categories: .

director2Dhondup Wangchen, the Tibetan filmmaker who has been in Chinese custody since 2008, has been sentenced to six years imprisonment by the provincial court in Xining (capital of Qinghai province).

Wangchen, aged 35, was arrested with his assistant, a monk named Jigme Gyatso, on March 26 2008 for the crime of state subversion after footage of his film Leaving Fear Behind was smuggled abroad and distributed on the Internet and at film festivals around the world. The 25 minute film documents the lives of Tibetans under Chinese rule, their views on His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the 2008 Beijing Olympic games.

The sentencing took place on 28 December 2009 but the information has only recently reached the press as his relatives in Xining were neither informed about the trial nor the verdict. It is not known where the filmmaker was tried. Jigme Gyatso was released in 2008 and said that he had been tortured in custody.

Wangchen has been suffering from hepatitis B, for which he said he has been denied adequate medical treatment, the International Campaign for Tibet, the US based rights group said in its report on 17 September 2009. The Chinese government also arbitrarily replaced the lawyer chosen by Wangchen, Li Dunyong, with a government-appointed lawyer in July 2009.

Li Dunyong, also reported that his client had been tortured to extract a confession.

It is unclear how the international human rights and filmmaking communities will respond to this but right now information can be found on the film’s website. It’s also worth checking out Filming for Tibet, a non-profit founded by Gyaljong Tsetrin in 2008, in order to realize his cousin Wangchen’s dream of bringing unheard Tibetan voices to the world stage.  In too many places on Earth making a film can be an incredibly dangerous mission.

Below is the first part of the 25 minute documentary which is now available on YouTube.

  • John Roberts

    So much for for freedom of speech in China! This refutes all those nitwits who claim China is no longer a communist dictatorship but is becoming capitalist. Sorry, losers, but China is a one-party dictatorship and the one party that is in control is the communist party! Hey, if you think China is just like the West, try selling a positive book about the Dalai Lama or freeing Tibet in a bookstore in the mainland! My book is banned in China, because it tells the truth about the Chinese occupation of Tibet instead of a whitewashed, pro-Beijing version. To see how you can take action against China’s repressive regime, read my blog at — and remember, if you ever buy ANYTHING made in China, you’re just strengthening the regime. If it says “Made in China,” don’t buy it!

  • Sonia

    Very powerful video.

    My heart breaks for the Tibetans and Dhondup. For someone to be criminalized for bringing the truth to light is shameful. I’ve never known much about Tibet’s situation or China’s role in their oppression, but once I did it was hard to see China in a good light. Not to mention their role in the Darfur genocide. It’s really hard to have hope for mankind when they are so disheartening.

    If only there were more Dhondup’s in the world:)

  • Heather

    Thanks for sharing this video! Dhondup is a brave man. Hopefully, he’ll be released from his sentence. My heart goes out to him and to the Tibetans.

  • herwin

    didnt Obama recently strongly urged Myanmar to release political disident Aung Sang Suu Kyi ? This while although she isnt free, she isnt tortured and not even in prison but merely suffers a house arrest. Compared to the unjust and methodicaly and ruthles and massive supression of chinese disidents, her house arrest is a very kind punishment.
    Ten bucks says our hero Obama wont urge the chinese to release mr Dhondup Wangchen, or any other disident who suffers torture and many years in camps.
    Anyone takes my bet ?
    I feel sorry for mr Dhondup Wangchen and hope the best for him.