DHARAMSHALA: President of the Central Tibetan Administration Dr Lobsang Sangay expressed his relief at the safe arrival of Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen in the US.
“We are relieved that he is in a free land and reunited with his family. We applaud his courage and contribution to the cause of Tibet. We wish him and his family all the best,” he said.
According to a press release issued by Filming for Tibet read release here Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen was reunited with his family after arriving in San Francisco on 25 December. He has been separated from his family for over a decade after being imprisoned by Chinese authorities on charges of splittism, for making a documentary film on the real aspirations of Tibetans inside Tibet.
Dhondup Wangchen, along with Tibetan monk Golog Jigme, was arrested in March 2008 for making the documentary ‘Leaving Fear Behind’ in the run up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The documentary consists of a series of interviews with ordinary Tibetans discussing their faith in His Holiness the Dalai Lama, resistance against the Chinese government, the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and mass migration of Han Chinese into traditional Tibetan areas.
As the film gained critical acclaim both inside Tibet and in the diaspora, Dhondup Wangchen was charged with inciting splittism and subsequently imprisoned. The Xining Intermediate People’s Court in Qinghai Province sentenced him to six years imprisonment and three years’ subsequent deprivation of political rights on December 11, 2009. He began serving his sentence in Xining Prison in 2010.
Since his imprisonment, numerous international rights organisations have appealed the Chinese government to release him, including Amnesty International, which named him a prisoner of conscience. In 2012, he was awarded the International Press Freedom Award by the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
Dhondup Wangchen was finally released from prison on 5 June 2014. He returned to his home at Bayen in Sangchu County (Incorporated into China’s Gansu Province) where he served his three-year sentence of deprivation of political rights. That sentence expired on June 4, 2017.
After arriving to freedom in the US, Dhondup Wangchen told reporters that he felt relieved and liberated.
“After many years, this is the first time I’m enjoying the feeling of safety and freedom. I would like to thank everyone who made it possible for me to hold my wife and children in my arms again. However, I also feel the pain of having left behind my country, Tibet.”