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Film-maker Dhondup Wangchen transferred to labour camp PDF Print E-mail
[21 May 2010] News has emerged that Dhondup Wangchen, the Tibetan film-maker who was sentenced to six year's imprisonment in December 2009 for making the film Leaving Fear Behind, has been transferred to a labour camp.

ImageIt is believed that the transfer took place following an unsuccessful appeal. It is known that Dhondup Wangchen formally appealed his six year sentence, but it is assumed the verdict was upheld as he was transferred to Xichuan Prison, a known prisoner labour camp, on 6 April 2010.

Dhondup Wangchen's family have called for international intervention to secure his release. There continue to be concerns for Dhondup Wangchen's health especially given the harsh conditions at Xinchuan Prison. Last year whilst in detention he was tortured and was suffering from Hepatitis B with no medical treatment.

[Update: 1 June] As news of Dhondup Wangchen's transfer was received, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was just beginning a trip to China (21-25 May). At short notice an online petition was organised by International Tibet Support Network calling on Secretary Clinton to raise Dhondup Wangchen's case during her meetings with Chinese officials. The petition was signed by over 1,000 people. Subsequent to Secretary Clinton's trip a new petition has been started, directed at Qinghai Province's Party Secretary Qing Wei.

Help raise the case of Dhondup Wangchen ...
1. Please sign the online petition to Qinghai Party Secretary Qing Wei, calling for Dhondup Wangchen to be released immediately, for Dhondup to receive medical treatment and for Lhamo Tso to be allowed to visit her husband. Click here to sign petition.

2. Tibet Society has produced DVDs of Leaving Fear Behind, for use as a campaign tool to raise awareness of Dhondup's case. The DVDs are available at a nominal cost of 2.50 (to cover postage and production). Help bring the reality of the Chinese government's policies in Tibet to a wider audience by arranging a film screening to your local community or school, let your local press know, show it to friends or send to your local MP. For a copy of the DVD, please call our office on 020 727 1414 or email This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it for further details.

3. Write a short, personal letter to Dhondup Wangchen in Xichuan Prison.
Former Tibetan political prisoners have testified to the fact that they became aware of the letters arriving at their prison from people around the world. This gave them a tremendous source of strength and encouragement. Letters to a political prisoner also send a signal to the Chinese authorities that the global community cares about the well-being of this individual, and that their treatment in prison is under scrutiny. Prison letter-writing campaigns have resulted in better conditions for prisoners and in some instances a reduced sentence.

Prison Address:
Dhondup Wangchen [Chinese: Dangzhi Xiangqian]
Xichuan Prison
108 Xichuan South Road
Xining City
Qinghai Province, 810029
People's Republic of China

Please send copies of your letter to the following Chinese leaders:
(Copying your letters to the Party Chief of Qinghai and the Minister of Justice is more likely to make the prison authorities take note of this campaign.)
Wu Aiying, Ministry of Justice, No.10 Chaoyangmen Nandajie, Beijing 10002, People's Republic of China.
Qiang Wei, Secretary of the CPC Qinghai Provincial Committee, Qinghai Provincial General Office, No.12 Xidajie, Xining, Qinghai 810000, People's Republic of China.

When writing your letter please remember:
  • to include Dhondup Wangchen's name as it is known in Tibetan - Dhondup Wangchen, and in Chinese - Dangzhi Xiangqian.
  • to include a simple greeting, with a little bit of information about how you heard about Dhondup Wangchen and why you have decided to write to him.
  • to use common sense and basic precautions, remembering that the letters you send will be read by the prison authorities.
  • you do not need to include your full address, but your name and country of origin will help to show the breadth of global support.
To ensure that Dhondup Wangchen and the authorities know of the wide reaching support for his release, we advise that you include text in Chinese and Tibetan. You can cut and pasted the text from a PDF document which can be downloaded here.

Background information
Responses from Dhondup Wangchen's family
UK government response
Dhondup Wangchen: part of Amnesty International's World Cup team
Further links

Background information

Tibetan film-maker Dhondup Wangchen was sentenced on 28 December 2009 to a six year prison sentence for inciting separatism by making his documentary film Leaving Fear Behind. The film documents Dhondup's journey around Tibet in early 2008 where he interviewed Tibetans, asking them for their thoughts and views on the upcoming Olympic Games, the Dalai Lama and Chinese government policies in Tibet.

Born on 17 October 1974 into a farming family in Bayen in the Tsoshar region of Amdo, Dhondup received no formal education whilst growing up. In 1993 he made the arduous journey out of Tibet to India, traveling on foot to receive a teaching by the Dalai Lama. He returned to Tibet motivated to work for the benefit of the Tibetan people.

In 2007 Dhondup began work on the film Leaving Fear Behind with his friend Jigme Gyatso. Both men understood the risk they were taking, however they were detemined that the unheard voices of ordinary Tibetans should be heard on the world stage.

In Dhondup Wangchens own words, At a time of great difficulty and a feeling of helplessness, [the idea of our film is to] get some meaningful response and results. It is very difficult [for Tibetans] to go to Beijing and speak out there. So that is why we decided to show the real feelings of Tibetans inside Tibet through this film.

Footage of the film was smuggled out of Tibet in March 2008, shortly before both Dhondup and Jigme Gyatso were arrested. Dhondup, arrested on 26 March 2008, was held for in detention until his trial in December 2009. Jigme Gyatso was released without charge in October 2008. During his detention it emerged that Dhondup was suffering from Hepatitis B and was not receiving medical treatment.

Dhondup Wangchen's trial was carried out behind closed doors, with the lawyers appointed by his family forced by the Chinese authorities to stop representing him. On 28 December 2009 Dhondup was handed a six year prison sentence for "inciting separatism" and "subversion of state power". The dire lack of due legal process and the extreme sentence meted out for what were tenuous charges again shows the complete disregard the Chinese government has for meaningful legal reform and civil rights.

Dhondup formally appealed against the sentence and in February 2010 was due to meet Chinese lawyer Chang Boyang to go over proceedings. However the Chinese authorities did not allow the meeting and Chang Boyan was threatened in March with the closure of his law firm if he did not drop the case. On 6 April 2010 Dhondup was transferred to Xichuan Prison in Xining, Qinghai province, which is believed to indicate that the appeal was unsuccessful and the original verdict upheld.

According to the US-based Laogai Research Foundation, Xichuan Prison is a prisoner labour camp that manufactures aluminum alloy windows, bricks and concrete blocks. Former prisoners have testified to the harsh living and working at Xichuan prison.

Responses from Dhondup Wangchen's family
Dhondup Wangchens wife Lhamo Tso, who now lives with their four young children in Dharamsala, India, continues to appeal to China and the international community for her husbands release. Following news of her husband's (assumed) failed appeal and transfer to a labour camp, Lhamo Tso said on 19 May 2010, "We are absolutely desperate now ... China has made it clear that it is impossible for us to work inside their legal system. Therefore I appeal to foreign governments to intervene to secure the immediate and unconditional release of Dhondup Wangchen, who did nothing more than exercise his right to freedom of expression."

In January 2010, following news of the sentencing, Lhama Tso said, "My husband is not a criminal, he just tried to show the truth. ... read more

UK government response
In March 2010, during a visit to China, then UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband raised Dhondup Wangchen's case with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. ... read more

Following the initial reports of Dhondup Wangchen's sentencing, then UK Foreign Office Minister, Ivan Lewis, said in January 2010, I am concerned by reports that documentary film-maker Dhondup Wangchen has been sentenced to 6 years in prison. The verdict, like that of prominent human rights defender Liu Xiaobo, raises serious concerns about the right to freedom of expression in China. I urge the Chinese Government to meet its international human rights obligations and respect constitutional guarantees on freedom of expression. ... read more

Amnesty International
Dhondup Wangchen has been chosen by Amnesty International as part of their World Cup 2010 campaign. Dhondup Wangchen is one of 11 members of Stand Up United, a team of human rights defenders from around the world. ... read more on Amnesty International's website

Further links

Leaving Fear Behind website
Press release by Central Tibet Administration (6 January 2010)

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