For Immediate Release
Canadian filmmakers sign Open Letter to President Hu
(Montreal, Thursday, 6 August 2009) – An open letter signed by members of Canada’s documentary film industry to Chinese President Hu Jintao was released by the Canada Tibet Committee today. The letter is in support of imprisoned Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen. The letter (below) is signed by producers, filmmakers, directors, stunt coordinators, make-up artists and includes Emmy, Genie, Gemini and Jutra nominees and award winners.
One year ago today, Wangchen’s film ‘Leaving Fear Behind’ premiered in Beijing which documents ordinary Tibetans discussing their views on government policies in Tibet, the Dalai Lama and the Beijing Olympics. The Chinese government detained and later charged Wangchen with “inciting separatism”. Born on 17th October 1974, Dhondup is being held in Xining (Qinghai Province) and may be put on trial in a matter of days.
Wangchen’s family appointed Li Dunyong, a lawyer with the Beijing Gongxin law firm, to represent him. Li Dunyong was one of 21 lawyers who signed a 2008 petition seeking to represent detained Tibetans. However, Chinese authorities have prevented Li Dunyong from further representation of Wangchen and have forced him to return to Beijing from Xining where Dhondup is being held.
Leaving Fear Behind reveals with stark clarity that Tibetans are frustrated and embittered by the deterioration and marginalization of Tibetan language and culture; the destruction of the lifestyle of Tibetan nomads through Chinese forced settlement policies; the lack of religious freedom and the vilification of the Dalai Lama; and the broken promises made by the Chinese government to improve conditions in Tibet in the run up to the Olympic Games.
To date, Dhondup’s film has been shown in over 30 countries worldwide and further translated into many foreign languages including French, Spanish, German, Polish, Hungarian, Japanese and Chinese.
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For more information:
6 August 2009
President Hu Jintao
President of the People's Republic of China
Yongdingmenjie, Beijing 100032
People's Republic of China
Dear President Hu:
On March 26th, 2008, your government detained and later charged Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen with “inciting separatism”. Born on 17th October 1974, Dhondup is being held in Xining (Qinghai Province) and may be put on trial in a matter of days.
One year ago today Dhondup premiered his film ‘Leaving Fear Behind’ in Beijing. 'Leaving Fear Behind,' documents ordinary Tibetans discussing their views on government policies in Tibet, the Dalai Lama and the Beijing Olympics.
This is what Dhondup Wangchen said when he decided to go to Tibet and make this film:
“The idea of our film is not to get famous or to give entertainment. But at a time of great difficulty and a feeling of helplessness, it is for us to show such a film to get some meaningful response and results. It is very difficult [for Tibetans] to go to Beijing and speak out there. So that is why we decided to show the real feelings of Tibetans inside Tibet through this film.....
....I think I need to stand up for the Tibetans and this is where I need to go. Staying away from my children and family is one of the hardships, if I live on”
Dhondup’s family received no official notification of his whereabouts or reason for his detention until April 2009. Reports indicate that he was tortured and ill-treated while being interrogated in 2008. He suffers from Hepatitis B, for which he is not being treated.
His family appointed Li Dunyong, a lawyer with the Beijing Gongxin law firm, to represent him. Li Dunyong was one of 21 lawyers who signed a petition in 2008 seeking to offer representation for detained Tibetans. Li Dunyong was able to meet with Dhondup Wangchen and stated that he believes he has not committed a crime. However, authorities have prevented Li Dunyong from further representation of Dhondup Wangchen and have forced him to return to Beijing from Xining where Dhondup is being held.
On July 13th, Beijing judicial authorities told Dhondup’s lawyers to drop the case because of a new rule that only permits lawyers based in the province where a case has been filed to represent a defendant. According to the information provided at that time, violations of the rule will be punished by the revocation of a lawyers’ professional licence. Recently, six well-known human rights lawyers had their licences revoked and at least 14 more are awaiting the final results of an annual assessment of their licences.
Dhondup is a prisoner of conscience, detained for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression.
We, the undersigned, being representatives of Canada’s film-making profession, appeal to the Government of China to release Dhondup Wangchen [Dangzhi Xiangqian] immediately and unconditionally; we call on China to guarantee that, while he remains in custody, he is not tortured or otherwise ill-treated, and has access to family, legal representation of his choosing and any medical care he may require.
Tero Arden, Motion Picture Technician
Crystine Booth, Filmmaker
Jen Bradwell, Filmmaker
Jacqueline Bui, Les productions Mango
Barbara Sumner Burstyn, Writer
Thomas Burstyn, Director
Graeme Campbell, Filmmaker
Karen Cho, Filmmaker
Marny Eng, Stunt Coordinator
Carlos Ferrand, Filmmaker
Van Ferrier, Producer, Makila.tv
Bob Findlay, Camera Operator
JoAnn Fowler, Make-up Artist
Cynde Harmon, Producer
Anne Henderson, Producer, Director, Arcady Films
Stephen Maier, Cameraman
Jimmy Medellin, Filmmaker
Marvin Midwicki, Radar Films
Jorge Montesi, Director
Randal Platt csc., CEO Summerhill Films Ltd.
Alison Reid, Director, Producer
Lisa Robison, Editor
Ritu Sarin, Filmmaker
Tenzing Sonam, Filmmaker
Ellen Tang, Filmmaker
Colin Thomas, Story Editor