Leaving Fear Behind: a documentary film that costs Wangchen his freedom

In March 2008, the year when the air was full of excitement in Beijing, as it was to host the Olympics, and showcase its strength as the rising superpower, Dhondup Wangchen, a simple layman, decides to put his life at risk. Taking a simple camcorder as his tool, he sets himself on a journey to expose an alternative story, to all the excitement about the Olympics. Despite knowing the danger of being imprison or shot dead, he starts interviewing Tibetans from every walks of life, about their opinions on China hosting the 2008 Olympics. With much sensitivity and concerns for the safety of his interviewees, he promises to blur their faces. But most of the Tibetans who spoke to him, wanted their faces be shown, as they felt a strong desire to express themselves and let the world and China know how they feel about the Olympics. Almost all of them express skepticism and disbelief that China would do anything concrete to improve the dire situation in Tibet. They are doubtful that China would lift its censorship, and let media report without restricts during the game. They also question the decision of the Olympics Committee for having let China host the game. If the essence of the game is that it represents freedom, then they say that freedom has set behind the mountains that surround Tibet. For instance, one of the interviewees states, “The Chinese have independence and freedom so it’s something that they can celebrate. Take me for example, I think the game is important, but I don’t like them.” She implies the undeniable differences in the Chinese government’s treatment of the Chinese and the Tibetans. Then another Tibetan, a monk, states, “As a Tibetan, I have neither the freedom nor the peace. Therefore I don’t want these Games.” Appropriately, Dhondup Wangchen titled his film, Leaving Fear Behind.

Unfortunately, Chinese government arrested Wangchen soon after the words about his film reached their sharp ears. On December 2008, he was sentenced to six years in prison. His wife and two young children, managed to escaped to India, after his arrest. Now they are leaving in exile, waiting for the day, when the family will be reunited. But their hope has been tested many times after his arrest. Even though thousands have taken it to the streets to call for his release, no improvement has made thus far in his case. Just recently, his wife, Lhamo Tso traveled around the U.S to seek help from the world to pressure China to release her husband. But it seems all too difficult to challenge the influence of China, in the world politics.

Dhondup Wangchen is one of many Tibetans, who are unjustly imprisoned for many years, for expressing their desire for freedom. Whether China will ever release these Tibetans from their clutch is a grave concern… May the world never see a day when justice is only an empty word for many.

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