BEIJING – A Tibetan film maker who spent six years in jail for denouncing repression in Tibet in a documentary has fled China and has arrived in San Francisco in the United States, according to the group Filming for Tibet, which organized a campaign to support his work.
Dhondup Wangchen, 43, arrived in California on Dec. 25, “after an arduous and risky escape from Tibet,” read a statement on the web page released Wednesday night.
“I’m enjoying the feeling of safety and freedom,” said the film maker after reaching the US where he is set to join his wife and children.
Dhondup Wangchen was detained in March 2008 – as part of measures taken by China against the Tibetan revolts during that period – for making the documentary film “Leaving Fear Behind.” He was later handed a six-year prison sentence for “inciting subversion,” a crime frequently attributed to dissidents.
The documentary, in which ordinary people from Tibet speak on topics such as the Dalai Lama, Chinese politics and the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, won the 2012 International Press Freedom Award of the Committee to Protect Journalists.
According to Filming for Tibet, Wangchen caught hepatitis B in prison, and his main assistant in the documentary, monk Golok Jigme, was also arrested and tortured.
Wangchen completed his jail term in Qinghai’s provincial capital Xining in June 2014, but he remained under strict surveillance with his movements and communications constantly monitored by the authorities.
His wife and children were granted political asylum in the US in 2012, while monk Golok Jigme managed to flee two years later to Dharamsala in India, the residence of the Dalai Lama and a large community of Tibetans in exile for more than half a century.