January 7, 2010 / 4:57 AM / 9 years ago

China jails Tibetan film-maker for six years

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese court has jailed a Tibetan film-maker for six years after he made a documentary in which ordinary Tibetans praised the Dalai Lama and complained about how their culture had been trampled upon, campaigners said.

The film, “Leaving Fear Behind,” features a series of interviews with Tibetans who talk about how they still love their exiled spiritual leader and think the Beijing Olympics did little to improve their lives.

Dhondup Wangchen and his monk friend, Golog Jigme, were detained shortly after finishing the film, but managed to smuggle tapes out of the country.

Dhondup Wangchen’s sentencing took place on December 28 in Xining, Qinghai’s provincial capital, said a statement on a website (www.leavingfearbehind.com) promoting the film, which is also campaigning for his release.

The website said the film-maker had no access to outside legal help, and the government had barred a lawyer hired by his family from representing him.

“I appeal to the court in Xining to allow my husband to have a legal representative of his own choosing,” his wife, Lhamo Tso, said in the statement.

“My children and I feel desperate about the prospect of not being able to see him for so many years. We call on the Chinese authorities to show humanity by releasing him. My husband is not a criminal, he just tried to show the truth.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said that while she had not heard of the case, all Chinese citizens enjoyed basic rights, including to freedom of speech.

“You will only be punished if you break the law,” she told a regular news briefing in Beijing.

People’s Liberation Army troops marched into Tibet in 1950. China has defended its iron-fisted rule, saying not only did it free a million Tibetan serfs but it also poured billions of dollars into the Himalayan region for development.

Tibetan protests led by Buddhist monks against Chinese rule in March 2008 gave way to torrid violence, with rioters torching shops and turning on residents, especially Han Chinese, who many Tibetans see as intruders threatening their culture.

At least 19 people died in the unrest, which sparked waves of protests across Tibetan areas. Tibetan exile groups say more than 200 people died in the subsequent crackdown.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Benjamin Kang Lim and Jerry Norton

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