China frees jailed Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen

Dhondup Wangchen photographed after he was released from prison

Acclaimed Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen photographed after he was released from prison on 5 June 2014. He was jailed for 6 years by the Chinese authorities in March 2008 for making the 25-minute documentary film Jigdral (Leaving Fear Behind). Photographer unknown


WASHINGTON, US, 6 June 2014

A Tibetan filmmaker who won international recognition for a bold documentary on ordinary people’s grievances against Chinese rule has been freed after serving a six-year sentence, his family said Thursday.

Dhondup Wangchen, who had no formal education, taught himself film-making and trekked around Tibetan areas for five months to make “Leaving Fear Behind,” which asks ordinary people their views about sensitive issues for China including the role of the exiled but revered Dalai Lama.

Chinese authorities arrested him in 2008 and charged him with subversion just after he completed the film, which was screened internationally as Tibetan protests flared months before the Beijing Olympics.

Wangchen’s family said in a statement that he was released from prison in Qinghai province’s capital Xining after serving out his sentence and was driven to his sister’s home.

“At this moment, I feel that everything inside me is in a sea of tears. I hope to recover my health soon,” Wangchen told his cousin in Switzerland by telephone, according to the statement by Filming for Tibet, the group that produced his movie.

His wife Lhamo Tso, who was granted asylum in the United States and lives in San Francisco, said she hoped to be reunited with her husband.

“Six years of injustice and painful counting the days ended today,” she said in the statement.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists in 2012 gave Wangchen its International Press Freedom Award in absentia.

Filming for Tibet said that Golog Jigme, who worked as an assistant on the film, recently escaped to India, the refuge for some 100,000 Tibetans including the Dalai Lama.

The group earlier said that Jigme suffered severe beatings, which led him to faint several times, when he was jailed for seven months after the production of the film.

China has governed Tibet since 1951, a year after invading, and says the Himalayan region is an integral part of its territory which has prospered under its rule.

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