January 6, 2010

Dhondup Wangchen: 6 Years for Reporting Life

Radio Free Asia reports that Tibetan documentary film maker Dhondup Wangchen has been sentenced to six years imprisonment (not counting the one he's already spent awaiting trial) for the crime of "splitting the motherland."  That's right, folks, China is such a fragile nation that it's handlers can't cope with being exposed in a documentary.  It might make the ruling class look bad.  Really.

China Jails Tibetan Filmmaker
HONG KONG—Authorities in the northwestern Chinese province of Qinghai have handed a six-year jail sentence to a Tibetan filmmaker who returned from exile to make a documentary about his homeland, Tibetan sources say.
The Xining Intermediate People's Court [my bold] handed the sentence to Dhondup Wangchen, the producer of the documentary “Leaving Fear Behind,” in a secret trial that found him guilty of “splitting the motherland,” the sources said.“Dhondup Wangchen, the producer of ‘Leaving Fear Behind,’ was sentenced six years to prison,” a Tibetan from the Amdo region identified as Thardrub said.
“We were checking around about it...later, we were able to confirm that he was sentenced secretly [my bold] by Xining Intermediate People's Court in Qinghai on Dec. 28, 2009.”
Dhondup Wangchen’s relatives were given no information about his trial or sentencing, he added.
“They were not informed about the sentencing,” Thardrub said. “The relatives argue that he is innocent and he did not commit any crime...They are planning to appeal his sentence in the higher courts.”
Jamyang Tsultrim, a relative of Dhondup Wangchen now living in Switzerland, said the sentencing of Dhondup Wangchen was a clear indication of how Tibetans were deprived of freedom of expression in China.
“His relatives made arrangements for a lawyer to represent him, but the lawyers were not allowed to represent him,” Jamyang Tsultrim said.
“He was also suffering from liver problems and was denied any kind of medical treatment,” he added.
[...]  Dhondup Wangchen’s film, “Leaving Fear Behind” (www.leavingfearbehind.com), is a 25-minute documentary including interviews with Tibetans in the Amdo region expressing their views on Tibet’s exiled leader the Dalai Lama, the Beijing Olympics, and Chinese laws.
The authorities also detained Jigme Gyatso, a monk from the Kham region, at the same time, but released him on Oct. 15. He later said he was tortured in detention.
“Leaving Fear Behind” was produced outside China after Dhondup Wangchen managed to send footage out of Tibet before the authorities caught up with him.
It was shown to foreign journalists in Beijing during the Olympic Games.[...]
Original reporting by RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.
Imagine living in a country where not only is it a crime to document real things happening in real places, but a so-called "people's court" can keep you imprisoned, run a secret trial with a secret decision, and disappear you for SIX YEARS!  Your family and friends can't file an appeal because they haven't been notified of anything--not the alleged "crimes" and certainly not the supposed "justice" of having to live in a Chinese prison for almost a decade.
The day will come when the Chinese people and all the minority ethnic groups within China will recognize their enslavement to this nebulous government of the people.  They  will rise up and say, "Whose justice are you talking about?"  Let's hope true justice comes about through peaceful means.  It can happen if each and every individual bureaucrat wakes up to the crimes they commit in the name of "The People."  It will grow as they decide to stand up for justice, not Just Us.
Learn more from the web site for Leaving Fear Behind:  http://www.leavingfearbehind.com/
The NY Times covered this story in October, with more personal info about Dhondup Wangchen:
China Is Trying a Tibetan Filmmaker for Subversion
Published: October 30, 2009
CHONGQING, China — A self-taught filmmaker who spent five months interviewing Tibetans about their hopes and frustrations living under Chinese rule is facing charges of state subversion after the footage was smuggled abroad and distributed on the Internet and at film festivals around the world.
The filmmaker, Dhondup Wangchen, who has been detained since March 2008, just weeks after deadly rioting broke out in Tibet, managed to sneak a letter out of jail last month saying that his trial had begun.
“There is no good news I can share with you,” he wrote in the letter, which was provided by a cousin in Switzerland. “It is unclear what the sentence will be.”
[...]  Until now, the case of Mr. Wangchen, 35, has received little attention abroad. Uneducated and plainspoken, he was an itinerant businessman until October 2007, when he bought a small video camera and began traveling the Tibetan plateau interviewing monks, yak herders and students about their lives.
Tsetring Gyaljong, a cousin who helped him make the documentary, said that Mr. Wangchen’s political awareness was sharpened nearly a decade ago, when he witnessed a demonstration in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, that was quickly broken up by public security officers.
“He saw how it was dissolved in two or three minutes and how everyone was taken away,” said Mr. Gyaljong, speaking from Switzerland, where he has lived in exile since escaping from Tibet. “There were no pictures, no testimonies, and he felt like the world should know that Tibetans, despite the Chinese portrayals, are not a happy people.”
[...]  In an interview from Dharamsala, where she works as a baker, Mr. Wangchen’s wife, Lhamo Tso, said she feared she might not see him again for many, many years.
“As a wife, I’m very sad to be without the person I love so much,” she said. “But if I can separate out that sadness, I feel proud because he made a courageous decision to give a voice to people who don’t have one.” [...]
Long live the Tibetan people, wherever they are!

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