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Tibetan jailed for 6 years over documentary

January 9, 2010

CBC - Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Tibetan filmmaker who made a documentary critical of Chinese policies in
his country has been convicted of charges of trying to divide Tibet.

Dhondup Wangchen, 35, has been sentenced to six years in prison, according
to a family friend. He was jailed in March 2008, shortly before violent
riots in Lhasa, Tibet, that were suppressed by Chinese troops.

Friends say he was beaten in prison.

He was tried in October with defence from a state-appointed lawyer in the
Chinese city of Xining and found guilty of sedition.

Wangpo Tethong said Dhondup was sentenced Dec. 28, but court officials
withheld the information from the family until this week.

Dhondup's film, Leaving Fear Behind, is the result of five months of
interviews with Tibetans who express dissatisfaction with Chinese rule.

A first-time filmmaker, he collaborated with his cousin Gyaljong Tsetrin,
who lives in Switzerland and a cameraman, Golog Jigme, who was also jailed.

"The idea of our film is not to get famous or to give entertainment,"
Dhondup said, but to draw the world's attention to the plight of Tibet.

"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," he added.

Leaving Fear Behind was filmed in ethnically Tibetan areas of China in 2008,
ahead of the Beijing Olympics, and shows Tibetans talking about how their
Buddhist way of life is threatened.

Some of those interviewed call for the return of exiled Tibetan leader the
Dalai Lama. People also spoke about not having enough to eat and about
feeling no sense of celebration over the Olympic Games.

The documentary was edited by Tsetrin, after the filmmaker smuggled his
tapes out of China. It has been shown internationally.

The Association of Tibetan Journalists has condemned the trial as unfair and
called for his release.

China says Tibet has historically been part of its territory, but Tibetans
argue they were effectively independent for most of their history.
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