Dhondup 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.