A Tibetan filmmaker has been sentenced to six years in prison for separatism by a court in China. Human rights groups and Reporters Without Borders have called for his release, to no avail.
Dhondup Wangchen, a Tibetan exile who returned to his country to interview Tibetans about Chinese rule, was found guilty by the Xining Intermediate People’s Court in a secret trial of ”splitting the motherland,” according to Radio Free Asia’s website. Wangchen produced the documentary Leaving Fear Behind.
One of the filmmaker’s relatives, Jamyang Tsultrim, who now lives in Switzerland, said Wangchen’s sentencing was a clear example of Tibetans being deprived of freedom of expression. He said:
His relatives made arrangements for a lawyer to represent him, but the lawyers were not allowed to represent him.
He was also suffering from liver problems and was denied any kind of medical treatment.
The Dalai Lama’s Representative for Africa, Sonam Tenzing, told Digital Journal that others were also documenting life in Tibet under Chinese rule:
Not only Dhondup Wangchen, but also many others who have tried to make films on their own, videotaping their own opinions.
Asked what was considered illegal about these actions, Tenzing said:
These actions are seen by Chinese authorities as encouraging separatism. Anything the Chinese authorities see that projects negatively is seen as an action that would incite separatism.
Describing the contents of the Wangchen’s film in a telephone interview, Tenzing said:
The film documents lives of the Tibetans and their resentment and why they express resentment against Chinese rule. (They) bravely and candidly speak about policies that make them dissatisfied.
I asked Tenzing whether the people in the documentary would get into trouble for expressing their dissatisfaction. He said:
They would be in trouble, yes, because they have spoken negatively against the Chinese government. Knowing full well they will be in trouble, they have taken the decision to tell the truth.
He added that it was:
Equally important to appeal to human rights groups to put pressure on Chinese authorities, for example to release those Tibetans who have done social benefit activities like Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche.
Tenzing explained Rinpoche was the head of a nunnery Karze Prefecture and added:
We understand he has not criticized the Chinese government but was framed for possessing weapons, which is ludicrous. He was also arrested in May 2008.Tibet.net says Rinpoche was a respected Lama. The nunnery in Karze Prefecture is in a mainly Tibetan area of Sichuan province. The website added that his lawyer, Li Fangping, was Chinese.