New York, January 7, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on the Xining provincial court in Qinghai province to allow imprisoned Tibetan documentary filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen to appeal a six-year prison sentence he was given last week.
The appeal period expires today, but the journalist was
unable to file after being denied access to his chosen lawyer, according to his
Switzerland-based film company, Filming for Tibet. His family has not been
formally notified of his trial or the verdict, the company said in a statement. CPJ was
unable to reach the filmmaker’s wife, Lhamo Tso, by phone.
Filming for Tibet
said the court sentenced Dhondup Wangchen on December 28, 2009. Gyaljong
Tsetrin, Dhondup Wangchen’s cousin, told CPJ by telephone from Switzerland today he had learned of the
sentencing from contacts in Xining,
but had not been able to determine the exact nature of the charge against his
cousin. International news reports said last year the journalist was to be tried
behind closed doors for state subversion.
The filmmaker has been infected with Hepatitis B since his imprisonment and
is being held in poor conditions without enough food or sleep, Gyaljong Tsetrin
Chinese police arrested
Dhondup Wangchen in March 2008, after he completed filming for the documentary “Leaving Fear Behind.” Dechen Pemba,
the film’s spokesperson, described his secret detention on the CPJ
blog last month.
“The detention and trial of Dhondup Wangchen have been
secretive and against Chinese law,” said Bob Dietz,
CPJ Asia program coordinator. “Chinese authorities should not persecute a
journalist for the straightforward act of filmmaking. He should be allowed to
appeal this unjust sentence.”
Dhondup Wangchen, a farmer without formal education or filmmaking
experience, was born in Qinghai but lived in Lhasa, the capital of the
Tibetan Autonomous Region, as a young man, according to his film company’s Web
site. He and his colleagues conceived the idea of filming interviews with
ordinary Tibetans about China’s
rule of Tibet
in the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. His wife and four children moved
to Dharamsala, India, before he began the project
to protect them from reprisal by Chinese authorities if they objected to his
Dhondup Wangchen’s assistant, Jigme Gyatso, was arrested on
March 23, 2008. Jigme Gyatso, a monk, was released on October 15, 2008,
according to international news reports. After he described being beaten in
detention to journalists, he was briefly rearrested
in March 2009 and released the next month, according to Filming for Tibet.