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Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen released from prison PDF Print E-mail
[5 June 2014] Dhondup Wangchen, who was imprisoned in 2008 for making a documentary in Tibet, has finally been released, several months after his six-year sentence expired. Though likely to still be under police surveillance, Dhondup has spoken to family members in exile and said he hopes to recover his health soon.

Dhondup Wangchen 2014[UPDATE 6 June] On 5 June, Dhondup Wangchen was released from prison in Xining, Qinghai province. According to Radio Free Asia, family members and other Tibetans had planned to greet Dhondup, but were denied by Chinese police who prevented the reception by driving Dhondup to his sister's home in Khotse, located two hours from Xining.
(Dhondup is pictured right and below on the day of his release.)

Dhondup's release from prison was initially announced by Filming for Tibet, a Swiss-based organisation run by Dhondup's cousin, Gyaljong Tsetrin. In a phone call to his cousin following his release, Dhondup said, At this moment, I feel that everything inside me is in a sea of tears. I hope to recover my health soon. I would like to express my feeling of deepest gratitude for all the support I received while in prison and I want to be reunited with my family.

According to Radio Free Asia, Dhondup was also able to speak to his wife, Lhamo Tso, and his brother, Jamyang Tsultrim, both of whom live in exile.

Regarding the phone call with her husband, Lhamo Tso said, "My emotion was so intense that I could not speak." She told Radio Free Asia that Dhondup was concerned about their children and their education, asking whether they were learning and speaking Tibetan. Lhamo Tso also confirmed Dhondup's poor health, saying, He is suffering and is still bothered by an old illness, for which he was never treated while in jail.

Dhondup's brother Jamyang Tsultrim said that Dhondup told him "he was not worried for himself". However, he added, "I had the impression that he is still not able to talk freely."

Dhondup WangchenDhondup's health has been a major concern throughout his detention. He was known to be suffering from Hepatitis B and was also thought to be suffering from a heart problem. Dhondup is also known to have been tortured and mistreated whilst in custody, which will have likely added to his poor health. It is hoped the Chinese authorities will now allow him to receive appropriate medical treatment.

Though no longer in prison, Dhondup is likely to remain under strict surveillance by the Chinese authorities. Former political prisoners in Tibet are often denied basic rights such as freedom of movement and assembly. They also find it difficult to find employment and are regularly harassed and intimidated by the police.

Dhondup Wangchen was arrested in March 2008 after filming and interviewing Tibetans in Tibet. He was charged with "inciting separatism" and "subversion of state power" and sentenced to six years in prison. The footage was smuggled out of Tibet and made into the film Leaving Fear Behind.

Dhondup's prison sentence was due to be completed on 25 March 2014. However, a judge postponed his release until 5 June. The reason for the delay is not known.

Thank you to everyone who has participated in the campaign to free Dhondup Wangchen. Tibet Society will continue to monitor his situation and call on the Chinese authorities to allow Dhondup to receive appropriate medical treatment and to be re-united with his wife and children.

Further reading:
Filming for Tibet press release (5 June)
Radio Free Asia report (5 June)
Background to Dhondup's case (Tibet Society)
Watch Leaving Fear Behind (Youtube, 25 mins)

Tibet Society, the worlds first Tibet support group, was founded in 1959. Funded by its members, it has been working for over 50 years to seek justice for Tibet through parliamentary lobbying, campaigns and actions. Help keep Tibet alive by joining Tibet Society today. (Annual membership 24; Family 36; Life 500)
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