China jails Tibetan film director for six years
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Dhondup Wangchen, a Tibetan film-maker, has been sentenced to six years in prison by Chinese authorities. The director was arrested in March for a documentary about ordinary Tibetan’s grievances with China.
AFP - A Chinese court has handed a six-year prison term to a Tibetan film-maker who made an internationally watched documentary in which ordinary people aired grievances, his family said Wednesday.
Dhondup Wangchen, 35, had trekked across the Himalayan territory for five months asking about topics including Chinese rule, the exiled Dalai Lama and the Olympics which Beijing was preparing to hold in August 2008.
The self-taught film-maker was arrested in March that year as major protests erupted in Tibet. He had just completed the film, "Leaving Fear Behind," which has since been screened in more than 30 countries.
The court in Xining in Qinghai province handed him a six-year sentence after authorities accused him of subversion, his family said in a statement.
"My children and I feel desperate about the prospect of not being able to see him for so many years," said his wife Lhamo Tso, who fled to safety in India with their four children in 2006 before he started filming.
"We call on the Chinese authorities to show humanity by releasing him. My husband is not a criminal; he just tried to show the truth," she said.
The family said that the court barred him from bringing a lawyer and that the verdict was delivered quietly on December 28.
Wangchen, who had no formal education, made the film with assistance from his cousin Gyaljong Tsetrin, who has political asylum in Switzerland.
Tsetrin said that his cousin had contracted Hepatitis B through rough treatment in jail.
"I ask myself how he will survive in prison for six years," Tsetrin said.
A Tibetan monk who worked on the film, Jigme Gyatso, spent seven months in jail in 2008 during which colleagues said he was beaten, hung by his feet from the ceiling for hours and kept tied to a chair for days.
More than 100 Tibetans gave interviews for the film, many voicing frustration about what they see as cultural suppression by China and expressing admiration for the Dalai Lama.
The Tibetan spiritual leader fled to India in 1959 and is vilified by Beijing.