Ellie Ng | Hong Kong Free Press
A Tibetan filmmaker has fled to the United States from China to escape the authorities’ harassment, after being held incommunicado, imprisoned and subjected to deprivation of political rights over the last ten years.
Dhondup Wangchen, 43, left the Tibetan-populated area in Qinghai province and arrived in San Fransisco on Monday, joining his family after more than ten years of separation. His wife Lhamo Tso had been campaigning for his release.
“After many years, this is the first time I’m enjoying the feeling of safety and freedom,” he said in a statement issued Wednesday by Filming for Tibet, an NGO founded by his cousin to support the work of Tibetan filmmakers.
“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.”
Considered one of the most prominent Tibetan political prisoners, Wangchen has worked to raise awareness about the denial of fundamental rights of Tibetans such as the right to freedom of expression, according to the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet.
Wangchen is known for his documentary Leaving Fear Behind, based on interviews with ordinary Tibetans in China between 2007 and 2008. In the film, the interviewees spoke about their views on the Dalai Lama and their criticism of China’s policies in Tibetan-populated areas.
The filmmaker was taken into custody in March 2008, but the footage was smuggled to Switzerland where Filming for Tibet edited it into a 25-minute film. It was first screened to foreign journalists in Beijing, two days before the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Wangchen was held incommunicado for over a year during his detention. In December 2009, he was given a six-year jail term in a secret trial for “inciting subversion of state power.”