Tibetan Filmmaker Flees to United States After Being Jailed in China

Dhondup Wangchen, a Tibetan filmmaker who was imprisoned for making a documentary about Tibetans living under the rule of China, has arrived in the United States, where he was reunited with his family, after escaping China, Sui-Lee Wee of the New York Times reports.

“After many years, this is the first time I’m enjoying the feeling of safety and freedom,” the forty-three-year-old director said in a statement. “I would like to thank everyone who made it possible for me to hold my wife and children in my arms again. However, I also feel the pain of having left behind my country, Tibet.”

Wangchen was first detained in 2008 after footage from his film Leaving Fear Behind, for which he interviewed Tibetans over five months in 2007, was smuggled out of the country and shown at international film festivals. He was charged with “inciting subversion” and sentenced to six years in prison. During his incarceration, Wangchen was allegedly forced to do manual labor, kept in solitary confinement for six months, and denied medical care, sparking human rights groups to rally for his release. After he was freed, the authorities continued to monitor his whereabouts and communications.

Wangchen’s family was granted political asylum in the United States in 2012. After Wangchen joined them in San Francisco on December 25, Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader of the United States House of Representatives, wrote on Twitter: “It is my honor to welcome Tibetan Filmmaker & former Chinese political prisoner Dhondup Wangchen to our San Francisco community. My thoughts are with him as he is once again united with his wife & children in freedom after so many years.”