As the world celebrated the coming of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Dhondup Wangchen, a self-taught filmmaker secretly shot the documentary “Leaving Fear Behind” to uncover life in Tibet under the Chinese Community Party’s rule. After his footage was smuggled out and shown overseas, Dhondup was detained by the Chinese government March 2008 during the Tibetan uprising.
Dhondup was later sentenced to six years in prison for “subversion of state power” and denied the right to an appeal. In prison, he was forced to do manual labour, denied medical treatment after being contracted with Hepatitis B, and was held in solitary confinement for several months.
Many international human rights groups campaigned for Dhondup’s release including Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders and Front Line. Amnesty international named him a prisoner of conscience. In 2012, he was awarded the International Press Freedom Award by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Dhondup also received the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent.
After his release, Dhondup was placed under heavy surveillance and his communications were closely monitored by Chinese officials. In December 2017, Dhondup fled Tibet after a risky escape for the U.S. where he has been granted asylum. Two months later, he testified in front of the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China.
Dhondup continues to serve as a voice for the Tibetan freedom movement by sharing his story. He emphasizes that the international community must never stop fighting for human rights because “Tibetans inside Tibet have not given up their struggle—even if fewer people are listening.”