BEIJING, China, 29 June 2016
An award-winning Tibetan film director was detained by police in China and ended up in hospital, officials and fellow cinematographers said Wednesday.
Pema Tseden, whose most recent film “Tharlo” was shown at film festivals around the world, was taken away by police on Saturday at Xining airport in his home province of Qinghai, the Film Directors Guild of China and online reports said.
He was detained over a “minor incident with local police about luggage”, according to Robert Barnett, head of the Modern Tibetan Studies Programme at Columbia University.
Tseden, who is diabetic, was ordered to be detained for five days and suffered dizzy spells after being held in stress positions, Barnett said on Twitter, adding he was released to hospital on Monday.
Tseden’s 2005 movie “The Silent Holy Stones” was the first full-length film made in China to be shot entirely in Tibetan.
His work often reflects the clash of traditional Tibetan life in the modern world, reflecting his personal transformation as a son of nomads who now shows films at international festivals.
China’s ruling Communist Party has cracked down on dissent under President Xi Jinping, but Tseden is not believed to have previously had trouble with authorities.
He was taken away for “disturbing public order” but no official charge had been announced, according to the Film Directors Guild, which is independent of Chinese authorities.
“We are strongly concerned about the incident,” it said in a statement. It called on police to say publicly why they “took such forceful measures, whether standard measures were taken, and whether violent or excessive enforcement was used”.
Police in Xining said Tseden had not listened to their commands as he was trying to return to the baggage claim area after exiting, a spokeswoman who refused to give her name told AFP.
Tseden spent one night in a detention centre and said he was feeling unwell the next day, she added, at which point he was taken to hospital, where he is now receiving treatment for high blood pressure and high blood sugar.
China has ruled Tibet since the 1950s and many Tibetans say Beijing represses their Buddhist religion and culture — charges China denies.
“Abuse and discrimination against Tibetans is embedded in the culture of China’s security forces and this deplorable incident will only have further fuelled Tibetan anger against Chinese rule,” said Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren, director of London-based campaign group Free Tibet, in a statement, adding that Tseden had been treated “as a second-class citizen in his own country”.