China sentences Tibetan documentary maker to six years in prison
Jan 7, 2010, 4:24 GMT
Beijing - A court in north-western China has sentenced a Tibetan man to six years in prison on charges of separatism after he made a documentary film that included footage of Tibetans discussing sensitive political topics, reports said Thursday.
Dhondup Wangchen was sentenced on December 28 after a closed trial in Xining, the capital of China's Qinghai province, Paris-based Reporters Without Borders and US government-funded Radio Free Asia quoted Dhondup's friends and relatives as saying.
Police detained Dhondup in March 2008 after he produced the film Leaving Fear Behind, which featured ordinary Tibetans discussing China's hosting of the Olympic Games, Chinese law and the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of China's 6 million Tibetans.
Radio Free Asia said Dhondup was found guilty of 'splitting the motherland' but added that his relatives had little information about the trial or sentencing.
His relatives argued that Dhondup did not commit any crime and they planned to appeal the sentence, the broadcaster said.
'This self-taught video maker who did nothing but film interviews with Tibetans has been given a long jail term after judicial proceedings in which his defence rights were violated,' said Reporters Without Borders, a non-governmental organization that advocates media freedom.
Dhondup's cousin Gyaljong Tsetrin, a refugee in Switzerland, told the group that he was 'dismayed by the fact that the entire judicial proceedings have been so unfair.'
Authorities prevented Dhondup's lawyer from representing him at the trial and Dhondup had complained of torture during his detention, the group said.
His wife and four children sought refuge in India after he began making the documentary film.
Dhondup's arrest came as Tibetans in many areas of western China were staging protests against Chinese rule.
Protests in early March 2008 in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, escalated into violence that left at least 21 people dead, according to the Chinese government.
Tibetan exile groups put the death toll at more than 200 and claimed that many Tibetans were killed by Chinese paramilitary police in Lhasa.