Nov 22, 2011

Tibet: Farmer Linked To Controversial Short Film Goes Missing

The disappearance is the latest event in the controversy around the documentary made by Dondup Wangchen in the run-up to the Olympics, which showed interviews with ordinary Tibetans. The filmmaker has since been detained.

Below is a press released published by Phayul:


Even as Lhamo Tso, the wife of jailed Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen is touring the UK, calling for her husband’s release, another Tibetan man suspected of having connections with the filmmaker has been arbitrarily detained by Chinese authorities and is missing for the last 20 days.

Lhaten, around 44 years of age went missing on November 1 at around 3 pm (Tibet time) and since then there has been no information on his wellbeing and whereabouts.

According to the Dharamshala based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), a Chinese lady teacher from the Taktse County Primary School telephoned Lhaten to fetch his son from the school. As soon as Lhaten arrived at the school gates, several policemen dressed in civilian clothes took him away in a black car.

While the TCHRD has said that Lhaten was suspected of having connections with Dhondup Wangchen, others have pointed out that Lhaten might have appeared in the Wangchen’s short film “Leaving Fear Behind”.

According to Wangpo Tethong, a Swiss based Tibetan activist, Lhaten had spoken on camera in Wangchen’s documentary.

In a video link sent to Phayul by Wangpo Tethong, the Tibetan man in question is seen in the documentary as saying: “Life is really hard. People don’t see it. Lots of tourists come to Lhasa and the Chinese government sweet talks them, showing them what they want to show.”

Lhaten, a farmer and the sole breadwinner of his family, lives with his wife Passang Choedon and their three children in Shingtsang Village, Taktse County, Lhasa.

Leaving Fear Behind” was released in 2008 prior to the Beijing Olympics and carried interviews with ordinary Tibetans from across the Tibetan plateau on their thoughts on the Dalai Lama, China, and the Olympic Games. 

Dhondup Wangchen was arrested shortly after the tapes were smuggled out from Tibet in March 2008 and was held in detention for 21 months until his close trial in December 2009 after which he was sentenced to six years in prison.

Drawing attention to her husband’s deteriorating health and pleading for his “compassionate release”, Lhamo Tso has been touring the UK this past week. 

Lhamo Tso lives with her four children in Dharamshala, north India and makes a living out of selling bread.