A film-maker has been jailed in China for six years for making a documentary in which ordinary Tibetans praised the Dalai Lama.
The film, Leaving Fear Behind , was shot by Dhondup Wangchen, a Tibetan from a poor farming family in
western Qinghai province, and his friend Golog Jigme Gyatso, a monk. The two men had spent several months before the 2008 Beijing Olympics interviewing Tibetans about the upcoming games and their views of the Chinese Government.
The 108 Tibetans
spoke with remarkable openness in the interviews and had agreed to show their faces on camera.
The pair had finished shooting the documentary and smuggled the tapes out of Tibet when a riot erupted in the capital, Lhasa, in March 2008. They were
arrested a few days later as unrest spread rapidly through Tibetan-populated regions of China.
On December 28 Wangchen, 35, was sentenced to six years in prison by a court in the western city of Xining. The trial received no publicity and his
family were not informed. News of his prison term was finally relayed out of the country to friends and relatives who had been campaigning for nearly two years for his release.
Before making the documentary, Wangchen said: The idea of our film
is not to get famous or to give entertainment. It is very difficult 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.
A statement on www.leavingfearbehind.com,
where footage can be downloaded, said that Mr Wangchen had not been allowed outside legal aid and that the Government had barred a lawyer hired by his family from representing him. His wife, Lhamo Tso, said: I appeal to the court in Xining to allow my
husband to have a legal representative of his own choosing.
Since April Chinese authorities have been removing satellite TV antennas in Tibetan regions to prevent access to foreign broadcasts.
Local sources indicate that for months now, teams of technicians are working to install cable lines for television
and to remove the satellite dishes. Only government approved programs are broadcast on cable TV, while the satellite antennas make it possible to receive foreign programs such as RFA or Voice of America.
Faced with protests by residents, the
television technicians respond that the order comes directly from the central authorities.