The Chinese government invaded and occupied Tibet in 1950. Since that time, heavy handed authorities have suppressed any and all criticism of China’s presence in the tiny mountain nation. Among the many victims of China’s crackdown is Tibetan journalist and filmmaker, Dhondup Wangchen, who has spent the last three years in prison as punishment for speaking out about the occupation. The catalyst in the silencing of Wangchen was the release of his film, Leaving Fear behind: I Won’t Regret to Die. Described as “an unadorned indictment of the Chinese government” by the New York Times, the 25 minute documentary outraged Chinese authorities and led to the arrest and trial of Wangchen.
Mr. Wangchen was sentenced to six years imprisonment after his show trial in 2009, and in 2010, his appeal was denied. The filmmaker was the first Tibetan journalist arrested for “inciting separatism. Now, three years later, nine other journalists have been convicted under the same charge and the world is beginning to finally take notice.
The disturbing trend of imprisoning journalists has spread in China, with seven ethnic Uighur journalists behind bars for reporting on the recent unrest. Elsewhere in the world, journalists have become targets, especially in Erdogan’s increasingly repressive Turkey, where almost 100 journalists are currently behind bars.
In an attempt to bring attention about the plight of Dhondup Wangchen to the world, a new movement has begun to demand his freedom.The petition makes the following demands of Chinese President, Hu Jintao, and exposes the terrible price Wangchen and his family have paid for simply speaking the truth:
“To: Chinese President Hu Jintao”
“We call on the Chinese government to free Dhondup Wangchen, a self-taught Tibetan filmmaker who is serving a six-year prison term for inciting separatism. Why? Because he documented Tibetan life under Chinese rule in “Leaving Fear Behind,” a documentary he conceived and shot in 2008. The film was produced and released by Switzerland-based film company Filming for Tibet and can be viewed on their website.”
“Dhondup Wangchen knew the risks. He moved his wife, Lhamo Tso, and four children to India to protect them in case he was arrested. Yet he chose to interview Tibetans on camera because he felt their voices should be part of the conversation in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in China in 2008—regardless of the personal cost.”
“The Committee to Protect Journalists is honoring Dhondup Wangchen with a 2012 International Press Freedom Award because we believe he should not have to pay that terrible price. We hope that the recognition that comes with this honor will show China that all charges against Dhondup Wangchen should be unconditionally dropped. Filming a documentary is not a crime. Wangchen should be released from prison immediately.”
In the 62 years since China first invaded Tibet 50 Tibetans have self immolated in order to protest the cruel, unjust occupation of this ancient and noble nation. The time has come to raise our voices and demand the Chinese government free Dhondup Wangchen, remove their troops from Tibet and allow the Tibetan people to live with dignity as an independent, self-governing nation.