In a secret sentencing held by the Xilin People’s Court in the Chinese province of Qinghai, 35-year-old moviemaker Dhondup Wangchen was sentenced to six years in prison on December 28, 2009 for the crime of “splitting the motherland,” stemming from his documentary, Leaving Fear Behind.
Wangchen, a Tibetan native, returned to his homeland to film the 25-minute documentary, interviewing Tibetans in the Amdo region on the recently exiled Dalai Lama, the Beijing Olympics and Chinese law. Wangchen was able to send footage out Tibet before being taken into custody by authorities.
While being held, Wangchen was unable to inform friends and relatives of his trial or sentencing. They argue he is not guilty of any crime, and find the situation to be a clear example of how freedom of expression is oppressed in Tibet.
“His relatives made arrangements for a lawyer to represent him, but the lawyers were not allowed to represent him,” said Jamyang Tsultrim, a relative of Wangchen now living in Switzerland. “He was also suffering from liver problems and was denied any kind of medical treatment.”
Reporters Without Borders, the Paris-based, non-government organization that advocates freedom of press and fights for the victims of free-press injustices, ran a petition campaigning for Wangchen’s release back in March, calling him “a courageous man who took the risk of returning to his country to interview other Tibetans.”
Wangchen’s family intends to appeal the court’s ruling in the higher courts.
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