In our top story today, we go to the plight of Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen, who made a documentary about the lives of ordinary Tibetans living in China. Now a Chinese court has sentenced him to six years in prison on the charge of "inciting separatism." It's a charge that's often used against dissidents in areas like Xinjiang and Tibet.
Documentary filmmaker, Dhondup Wangchen was sentenced to six years in prison late last year by the Chinese communist regime for allegedly inciting separatist activities.
The self-taught filmmaker co-produced the documentary “Leaving Fear Behind.” It features interviews of more than 100 Tibetans living in China. They speak about life under the Chinese regime’s rule, the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
Wangchen was arrested in March last year, shortly after he completed filming the documentary.
Wangpo Tethong, a Tibetan activist based in Switzerland, says Wangchen was sentenced by a court in Xining, in northwestern Qinghai province. But his family was not told about the trial.
[Wangpo Tethong, Tibetan Activist]:
“Right now there’s no written confirmation for the sentence, but it’s clear from the reactions [of the court] that the sentence took place and it was spelt out on December 28th.”
According to Tethong, Wangchen has reportedly appealed his sentence, but has no access to independent legal representation. A lawyer hired by his family was forced off the case and replaced by an attorney appointed by the Chinese regime.
Tethong says Wangchen suffered severe beatings in detention and contracted Hepatitis B. His family has not been allowed to see him. They are calling for the Chinese regime to release him.
Wangchen’s wife and four children escaped China in 2006 and are currently living in India as refugees.
The documentary “Leaving Fear Behind” has been screened in more than 30 countries.