By Lobsang Wangyal
NEW YORK CITY, US, 5 August 2018
Prominent Tibetan activist Dhondup Wangchen was honoured with the Lhakar Award by the Students of Free Tibet in New York at an event commemorating the 10th anniversary of the 2008 pan-Tibetan uprising in Tibet.
Over a hundred Tibetans living in New York and surrounding areas, and their supporters, attended the function. The Award was presented by the Executive Director of the Students for a Free Tibet Dorjee Tseten.
Dhondup Wangchen was sentenced to six years of imprisonment for “subversion” by the Chinese authorities after making a film that has interviews of Tibetans openly speaking about their faith and loyalty to the Dalai Lama.
The film Leaving Fear Behind was made in 2008 during the Beijing Olympics, during which Tibetans and human rights activists protested against the lack of basic rights in China.
Accepting the award, Dhondup Wangchen said that what’s going on in Tibet needs to be heard by people around the world, and China needs to pay heed to the Tibetan call for greater freedom in Tibet.
He said that the Chinese policies in Tibet are purposely destroying Tibetan culture and identity.
“The more than 150 Tibetan self-immolations are testament to the brutal Chinese policies in Tibet,” Wangchen said.
Additionally, he called on the Tibetans in exile to shun petty regional in-fighting, and stand united as Tibetans to work for a free Tibet.
Wangchen said that Leaving Fear Behind was made in collaboration with many other people, prominently Tibetan monk Jigme Gyatso.
The film was smuggled out of Tibet, and was screened at various international venues, including Beijing.
Dhondup Wangchen was arrested in March 2008, and was sentenced for “subversion” to six years in prison on 28 December 2009. He was released in June 2014 after serving the six-year term.
In December 2017 Wangchen escaped from China to the United States, and arrived in San Francisco on 25 December. His wife and children were already living there, having been granted political asylum in the United States in 2012.
At the award presentation ceremony were activists who had held anti-China protests on Mount Everest during the Beijing Olympics. Dhondup Wangchen’s wife Lhamo Tso was also among the people who attended the function.
The Lhakar Award was started in 2010 by the Students for a Free Tibet, which is based in New York City. The Award is to recognise and honour the contributions made by individuals to the Tibetan freedom struggle.