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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Video: Jigdrel - Leaving Fear Behind

September 1, 2008

Agam's Gecko Blog
August 28, 2008

here is a lady who lives in detention, within a country that's been
likened to a 50 million inmate prison. The military rulers of the
country control all the gun barrels (but nothing ever grows out of
them). The people of this country simply call her The Lady, while the
gunmen seem to fear her moral force.

"It is not power that corrupts, but fear. Fear of losing power
corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts
those who are subject to it." --Daw Aung San Suu Kyi -- "Freedom from Fear"

Dhondup Wangchen may not have ever heard Daw Suu's words, but he and
his friend Golog Jigme, a Buddhist monk, put them into serious
practise. Between October 2007 and March 2008, the two travelled
across the Tibetan plateau with a cheap video camera to record the
voices of ordinary Tibetans. Such voices are rarely if ever heard on
the outside.

But that was not quite enough for most of the people who spoke to
Dhondup's camera. Cautioned that they were allowed to protect
themselves from the retribution of the occupation regime by
concealing their identities, most of them insisted on leaving fear
behind and showing their faces to the camera. They needed to show
that they were not afraid to stand by their words, even at the
possible cost of their lives.

Dhondup Wangchen and Golog Jigme sent their tapes out of the country
on March 10, 2008, and were arrested soon after by Chinese security
forces. It was the same day that other Tibetans began peaceful
processions to demonstrate their lack of fear, and to mark their
national uprising exactly 49 years earlier. The film was completed in
exile -- its Tibetan title is "Jigdrel", rendered to English as
"Leaving Fear Behind." The filmmakers remain in Chinese prisons. The
complete film is here (just under 25 minutes).

(A suggestion: Start the video and pause it, allowing it to continue
loading while you read on. Lower bandwidth users might try the
version on Google Video, but the picture quality is not as good.)

Dhondup Wangchen comes from a farming family in Bayan County, Tsoshar
Prefecture, Amdo (Ch: Hualong, Haidong, Qinghai). Born in 1974, he
received no formal education, and has no film making experience.

In 1993 he made the long journey to India with his cousin, Gyaljong
Tsetrin, but both returned to their country. Gyaljong Tsetrin was
arrested many times for his work to preserve Tibetan identity and
culture, and he finally fled Tibet in 2002. He received political
asylum in Switzerland, and founded the non-profit organisation
Filming for Tibet in 2008.

Dhondup and his friend Golog Jigme travelled thousands of miles
across the plateau over nearly six months, asking ordinary Tibetans
what they felt about the Dalai Lama, China, and the upcoming Olympic
Games. The responses, often eloquent, won't be surprising to most
people. They will be a shocker to many Chinese, whether propaganda
department bureaucrats or online fenqing ("angry youth"), where the
favoured come-back to the long list of reprehensible Chinese policies
and actions is, "Go to Tibet and see for yourself how happy the
Tibetans are with our rule."

Watch the candor from nomads delivering their responses in the midst
of the spacious grassland, where there are no listening devices or
surveillance cameras. Pay attention to the emotions when a group of
elders are given the opportunity to view a recording of the ceremony
at which the US Congress and President Bush presented the
Congressional Gold Medal to His Holiness. An old man grieves over
their spiritual teacher's long absence and his fear that he will not
live to see his return, and weeps quietly in despair.

The film had its debut in Beijing on August 6, the only city where a
short documentary premiere needs to be a "cloak and dagger" affair.
Journalists were sent coded text messages telling them to go to a
certain room in a particular hotel, find a key taped in a secret
place and let themselves in. The first screening came off without
incident at a "dingy hotel" near Tiananmen Square. A second showing,
at a purple-hued boutique hotel near Worker's Stadium called Hotel G,
was nipped in the bud while a handful of reporters were watching. The
next day, Hotel G became Hotel Gone, closed down by the authorities.
The Party always ensures that the innocent pay as well as the "guilty."

Dhondup Wangchen was last seen in detention in Sining city, Qinghai,
while Golog Jigme was last seen at a detention centre in Lingxia,
Gansu. On August 24, Dhondup's wife Lhamo-Tso appealed to
International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge to help win
the men's freedom. Thousands of people have joined this campaign (so
can you). There has been no response.

Dear Mr. Rogge:

My name is Lhamotso and I am the wife of Dhondup Wangchen. It is with
desperation and sorrow over the fate of my husband and Golog Jigme,
who has been detained by Chinese authorities since March 2008. Their
crime was to film Tibetans' peaceful expression of their views on the
XXIX Olympic Games.

My husband, Dhondup Wangchen, from Hualong, Haidong (Qinghai) was
detained by authorities on or about March 26, 2008. He was held in
Ershilipu Detention Center in Xining (Qinghai), and was last seen in
Guangsheng Binguan on or about July 12, 2008.

Dhondup Wangchen spent most of his time helping the needy and serving
the community. He's a very good husband and also a good father to our
four children. I appeal to the Chinese Government to release Dhondup.
I urge you and the IOC to use your influence on China so that the
host of the Olympic Games remains true to its promises of freedom of
expression to the people.

Tomorrow, the Games in Beijing will be over, the people from all over
the world will return home taking away the spot light from China. I
beg you on behalf of my children and Dhondup's family to use the last
day and opportunity to speak out on behalf of my husband.


Now, you can probably watch the video without interruption. Here are
some of the voices of Tibet who have abandoned the wait for a
government to give them any freedom, and who have given themselves
the only freedom within their power: the freedom from fear.
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