Dhondup Wangchen

Dhondup Wangchen

Dhondup Wangchen, who was detained last year soon after completing filming of a documentary, may be facing charges of “inciting separatism” and espionage, according to information from an official source passed onto Western governments. Charges were brought against Dhondup Wangchen, who was denied access to a Chinese lawyer of his family’s choice, in June 2009.

Dhondup Wangchen was detained on March 26, 2008, soon after completing filming of the documentary ‘Leaving Fear Behind’. The film documents Tibetan views of last year’s Beijing Olympics, the current situation in Tibet and the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet. (See: http://www.leavingfearbehind.com/). Several other people involved with or appearing in the documentary have also been investigated by the authorities. According to information provided by official sources, Dhondup Wangchen was formally arrested in July 2008 under suspicion of “inciting separatism and stealing, secretly gathering, purchasing, and illegally providing intelligence for an organisation, institution, or personnel outside the country.”

Li Dunyong, from the Beijing Gongxin law firm, was blocked from taking on the case by the Xining judicial authorities, who informed Dhondup Wangchen’s family that the court would designate a government-appointed lawyer for the trial. This is in violation of China’s criminal procedure law and its obligations under international human rights law, which guarantee criminal defendants the right to choose their own defense counsel and to meet with their counsel while in detention (Human Rights Watch report). According to a further report, at least one government was refused permission to have access to any trial or hearing of Dhondup Wangchen. Various Western governments have raised concern about Dhondup Wangchen’s case.

Lawyer Li Dunyong is said to believe that Dhondup Wangchen’s actions in shooting footage and interviewing Tibetans for a film do not constitute a crime under Chinese law, according to information published on a Chinese-language blog site and sources who know Dhondup Wangchen. There are serious fears for Dhondup Wangchen’s welfare as he is being held incommunicado, without being allowed family visits. His wife, who lives in exile in India, also says that he is not being given medical treatment although he is in poor health and has Hepatitis B.

Wangchen (Chinese transliterations of his name are Dunzhu Wangqing and Dangzhi Xiangqian), was initially detained at the Ershilibu detention center in Xining. He was transferred a few months later to a government-run guesthouse nearby, probably for the purpose of interrogation, before being sent to the No. 1 Detention Center in Xining. Wangchen has been suffering from hepatitis B, for which he says he has been denied adequate medical treatment.

Jigme Gyatso, a monk from Qinghai province who worked with Wangchen on Leaving Fear Behind, was arrested at the same time. He was released on bail seven months later, on October 15, 2008, and reported that he had been tortured in detention.

Mary Beth Markey, Vice President for Advocacy of the International Campaign for Tibet, said: “Disturbing reports indicate that Dhondup Wangchen is being deprived of a fair trial, which should include the exclusion of evidence obtained under torture or other mistreatment, and the right to be represented by a counsel of one’s own choice. Because Chinese law provides that trials should be open unless they involve state secrets, we are also calling upon governments to ask to attend judicial proceedings against Dhondup Wangchen as a matter of urgency.”

ICT is also calling for Dhondup Wangchen to be given access to his family, and to be allowed medical treatment.