Chinese diplomat in UK agrees to “follow up” on issue of jailed Tibetan film-maker
Phayul[Thursday, September 30, 2010 21:13]
By Tenzin Tsering
Dharamsala, September 30: The Chinese ambassador to the U.K. agreed to follow up on the case of a jailed Tibetan filmmaker after Tibet activists appealed to the diplomat at a fringe meeting that was held earlier this week at the Labour Party Conference in Manchester.
London based Tibet support group Tibet Society’s Campaign Co-ordinator Paul Golding and Tibetan activist Tsering Passang directly challenged Ambassador Liu Xiaoming to look into the case of Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen, who was arrested in 2008 and sentenced to six years imprisonment.
At the event hosted by the Chinese diplomat to discuss “Why China and Britain need a stronger partnership?” the two activists also called on Liu to urge the Chinese government to release the imprisoned Tibetan filmmaker as a gesture of goodwill.
While the meeting -- which was attended by former UK Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott and Mark Hendrick MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on China -- saw very little mention of Tibet, activist Tsering Passang seized the question and answer session to raise the issue of China’s human rights record in occupied Tibet, citing the case of Dhondup Wangchen as an example.
Dhondup Wangchen was arrested in 2008 and sentenced to six years of imprisonment in 2009 for his documentary film titled “Leaving Far Behind,” which was critical of Chinese government policies in Tibet. Dhondup and his monk assistant Jigme Gyatso had travelled to remote corners in the eastern region of Amdo and across the Tibetan plateau from October 2007 to March 2008 filming over thirty five hours of interviews. The tapes were sent out in March 2008 to Switzerland, where Dhondup’s cousin Gyaljong Tsetrin put the final cut together and distributed it.
The film “Leaving fear behind” features twenty ethnic Tibetans giving their views on the Beijing Olympics that was to be held later that year, the current reality in Tibet and their calls for the return of the Tibetan leader Dalai Lama.
Speaking before the assembled MPs, party officials and party members, Tsering Passang asked Ambassador Liu to look specifically into the case of Dhondup Wangchen, and requested that the Chinese government release the imprisoned filmmaker since Dhondup had done nothing more than film Tibetans giving their opinions about life in Tibet.
“The ambassador was visibly surprised he had been asked such a question and responded by saying that he did not personally know of the case,” Tibet Society wrote in a statement to the press. Liu, however, added that, “If [Dhondup] had been arrested then he must have done something wrong.”
“This reply exemplifies China's complete disregard of the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’, and clearly illustrates the bias and difficulties encountered by Tibetans and human rights defenders in receiving a fair trial under the Communist regime,” the Tibet support group added in their release.
However, when directly approached by the two activists Liu said one of his staff would handle their request that he follow up on Dhondup Wangchen’s case if Tibet Society sent him more details on the matter.
“Tibet Society will now follow up by writing to the Embassy and the Ambassador. We will also encourage Lord Prescott and Mark Hendrick to do likewise,” the support group wrote in a statement.
Tibet Society will also invite Lord Prescott and Mark Hendrick to meet Dhondup Wangchen’s wife Lhamo Tso during her visit to the U.K. in October. Lhamo Tso, who currently resides in exile in Dharamsala, in her maiden tour to the U.K. will be speaking about her imprisoned husband in her address to MPs at an All Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet meeting at Westminster.