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Tibetan filmmaker and former political prisoner Dhondup Wangchen arrived in San Francisco on December 27, 2017, after escaping from Tibet. Photo: TDT

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Dharamshala — A Tibetan filmmaker jailed in China for making a film about the Olympics and Tibet has escaped from China and recently arrived in the United States.

Tibetan filmmaker and former political prisoner Dhondup Wangchen arrived in San Francisco on December 25, 2017, after escaping from Tibet. He was reunited with his family after 10 years of separation. Detained by Chinese authorities in Tibet in March, 2008 for making documentary film "Leaving Fear Behind", Wangchen was sentenced to six years in prison for "inciting subversion".

President of the Central Tibetan Administration Dr Lobsang Sangay expressed his relief at the safe arrival of the Tibetan filmmaker in the US. “We are relieved that he is released. We applaud his courage and contribution to the cause. We wish him and his family all the best,” the President said.

In a statement late on Wednesday, December 27, 2017, the group Filming for Tibet said Dhondup Wangchen had arrived in San Francisco that same day. "After many years, this is the first time I'm enjoying the feeling of safety and freedom," Wangchen said, adding: "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."

After many years of tireless campaigning for her husband, Dhondup Wangchen’s wife Lhamo Tso and their children were granted political asylum in USA in 2012.

Dhondup Wangchen was jailed for six years in late 2009 in the northeastern Tibet (Ch: western province of Qinghai) after he and his friend Jigme Gyatso (aka Golog Jigme) a Tibetan filmmaker and human rights activist made a documentary in which ordinary Tibetans praised His Holiness the Dalai Lama and complained about how their culture had been trampled upon. Jigme was listed among '100 Information Heroes' by the RSF on World Press Freedom Day in 2014. He was able to escape from Tibet, reaching the Tibetan Reception Centre in Dharamsala, India in May 2014. He was granted political asylum in Switzerland in 2015.

The film, Leaving Fear Behind, features a series of interviews with Tibetans who talk about how they still love their exiled spiritual leader and thought the 2008 Beijing Olympics would do little to improve their lives. The film was shown in secret to a small group of foreign reporters in Beijing during the 2008 Olympics.

He had been released from prison in June 2014 in Qinghai provincial capital Xining, but remained under tight surveillance, with his movements and communications monitored, the group said.

Reporters Without Borders launched a petition for the release of the Tibetan filmmaker, who was sentenced on 28 December 2009 to six years in prison. He was arrested by the Chinese authorities on 23 March 2008 while making a documentary in Tibet.

"Without a major campaign on behalf of this courageous man, who took the risk of returning to his country to interview other Tibetans, the Chinese authorities will keep him in jail," Reporters Without Borders said.

In 2009, RSF also handed a petition to the Chinese embassy in Paris. It was signed by 13,941 people, who included Tibetans, Indians, westerners, and eight Australian parliamentarians. Wangchen's wife, Lhamo Tso, who is a refugee in northern India, collected several thousand signatures with the help of the Tibet Post International(www.thetibetpost.com).

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