China Jails Tibetan Filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen for 6 Years

Dhondup Wangchen, the Tibetan filmmaker who was arrested by the Chinese government for documenting the current situation in Tibet and Tibetan people’s aspiration for return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet, has been sentenced to six years in prison, according to information received by the Central Tibetan Administration.

The sentence was pronounced was on 28 December 2009, according to the report. But it is not known where the filmmaker was tried.

Dhondup Wangchen, aged 35, was arrested with his monk assistant named Jigme Gyatso on 26 March 2008 for making the film “Leaving Fear Behind” in Tibet, which documents the lives of Tibetans under China’s rule, views about His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Beijing Olympics.

Jigme Gyatso was released on bail seven months later, on 15 October 2008, and reported that he had been tortured in detention.

Wangchen was initially detained at the Ershilibu detention center in Sining, Amdo. He was transferred a few months later to a government-run guesthouse nearby, probably for the purpose of interrogation, before being sent to the No. 1 Detention Center in Sining. Wangchen has been suffering from hepatitis B, for which he said he has been denied adequate medical treatment, the International Campaign for Tibet, the US based rights group said in its report on 17 September 2009.

The Chinese government arbitrarily replaced the lawyer chosen by Wangchen, Li Dunyong, with a government-appointed lawyer in July 2009. The Human Rights Watch strongly condemned the move as a “violation of China’s criminal procedure law and its obligations under international human rights law, which guarantee criminal defendants the right to choose their own defense counsel and to meet with their counsel while in detention”.

Wangchen’s lawyer, Li Dunyong reported that his client had been tortured in order to extract a confession and that some of the injuries he sustained as a result were still painful a year later. During that discussion Wangchen stated that he intended to plead not guilty and had admitted no wrongdoing during his 16 months in detention.

“A verdict against Dhondup Wangchen under the present circumstances will have no legitimacy whatsoever,” Human Rights Watch said in its statement on 3 August.