“He was held six years too long for simply making a film. Freedom of expression is a universal right and must be exercised by all citizens. We are glad Dhondup has now left the prison and we hope he will soon be able to rejoin his family,” said Matteo Mecacci, President the International Campaign for Tibet.
Dhondup Wangchen and his assistant Jigme Gyatso were detained in March 2008 after they completed “Leaving Fear Behind,” a documentary featuring Tibetans in Qinghai province expressing views on the Dalai Lama, the Olympic Games, and Chinese law. Before his arrest he managed to smuggle the footage overseas. The film has been screened worldwide. In July 2009 officials barred lawyer Li Dunyong from representing Wangchen and charged him with “inciting separatism.” The Xining Intermediate People’s Court sentenced him on December 28, 2009, to six years imprisonment. After harsh treatment at Xichuan Prison that included solitary confinement starting in March 2012, officials transferred Dhondup Wangchen to Qinghai Women’s Prison in Xining city where conditions “improved” and relatives were able to visit.
His wife Lhamo Tso launched an international campaign for his release. She is now living in San Francisco and was quoted by Filming for Tibet as saying, “Six years of injustice and painful counting the days ended today. It is a day of unbelievable joy for his parents in Dharamsala, our children and myself. We look forward to be reunited as a family.”
Dhondup Wangchen has been honored for his courage by Amnesty International. The Committee to Protect Journalists also awarded him the International Press Freedom Award in 2012. Dhondup’s case was a priority for the United States government. The State Department raised his case at the US-China Human Rights Dialogue last year.
Jigme Gyatso served seven months in prison for the film but then was charged with another political crime and fled Tibet. He reached Dharamsala, the home of the Dalai Lama in India, two weeks ago.