Saturday, August 16, 2008

Leaving Fear Behind: Tibetans... In Their Own Words.

Among other places (like here in San Francisco at the Chinese Consulate), the 'Free Tibet' movement has recently managed to unfurl some of their protest banners in Bejing, China - at the new headquarters of China's Central Television... though not for long. But, 30 minutes was long enough for some of the world press to film them.

Not too long ago, some students did the same after successfully scaling the Golden Gate Bridge.

It has been noted by some talking heads that - in numerous cases - the visible 'Free Tibet' protesters don't appear to be from Tibet. 'Free Tibet' sounds like a good idea, in theory, but how do actual Tibetans feel about what's been going on in their country?
About the Bejing Olympics? About the 'freedoms' the Chinese government gives them?

Well, I'm thrilled to say that I have found some answers for you...

Tonight, the ABC show "Nightline" aired a segment about a remarkable human being...
Well, actually, it involves several truly remarkable human beings: Two young men who made a documentary and the people who agreed to be filmed for it.

The word "Courageous" comes to mind.

What, exactly, makes these people courageous?

The men are Tibetan. They wanted to make a film to document the thoughts and feelings of their fellow Tibetans. One of the filmmakers first smuggled his family out of the country and then smuggled himself back in to make this film. They traveled across thousands of miles to meet and interview - on camera - other Tibetan people living in Tibet and ask how they felt about things like Chinese policies in Tibet, the 2008 Bejing Olympics and the Dalai Lama - whom the Chinese banned from Tibet for 50 years.

Either by making this film or by agreeing to appear on camera in it and speak their minds about China, these people are risking losing their freedom and possibly more. Under China's version of 'freedom and independence', simply declaring support for a free Tibet is punishable by up to 20 years in prison .

The two young documentary filmmakers, one of whom is a Tibetan Buddhist monk, were detained and taken into custody by the Chinese authorities shortly after getting their tapes safely smuggled out of the country where supporters put together the documentary.

Where they've been taken is unknown. If they are still alive and well is unknown.

I have two hopes in regards to this story...

First, I hope the filmmakers are soon released unharmed.

Second, I hope you see their film. (Available on the Internet, except in China... They shut down access to it.)

Free Tibet, Now.

"Leaving Fear Behind (in Tibetan, Jigdrel) is a heroic film shot by Tibetans from inside Tibet, who longed to bring Tibetan voices to the Beijing Olympic Games. With the global spotlight on China as it rises to host the XXIX Olympics, Tibetans wish to tell the world of their plight and their heartfelt grievances against Chinese rule. The footage was smuggled out of Tibet under extraordinary circumstances.

The filmmakers were detained soon after sending their tapes out, and remain in detention today."


Pro-Tibet Film Gets Rare Beijing Showing

By Ben Blanchard
August 6, 2008

BEIJING (Reuters) - A new documentary made by a pro-Tibet group on what Tibetans think of the Olympics premiered in Beijing Wednesday under a veil of secrecy.

The film, "Leaving Fear Behind," was shown to a small group of foreign reporters in a dingy hotel room in central Beijing, not far from Tiananmen Square.

Security officials did not interrupt the screening but Dechen Pemba, a British Tibetan woman deported from China last month, told Reuters by telephone that a second screening was halted by the hotel, under police instructions.

"Now that the Olympic Games are finally upon us, it's a chance to show how Tibetans feel and what their hopes are," Dechen Pemba said in a videotaped statement.

The film featured a series of interviews with Tibetans talking about how their culture had been trampled on, how they still loved exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, and how they viewed the Olympics as having done little to improve their lives.

"Outsiders may think that the Tibetans are treated very well and that they are happy. But the truth is that Tibetans are not free to speak of their suffering," one Tibetan said on the film.

"Even if I had to sacrifice my life for this message to be seen by the Dalai Lama, I agree and welcome this chance," said another.

The Dalai Lama fled into exile in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule.

Farmer Dhondup Wangchen and his monk friend Golog Jigme were detained shortly after finishing the film, but managed to smuggle tapes out of the country. "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," Dhondup Wangchen said in the film.

Four foreign protesters displaying pro-Tibet banners near the main Bird's Nest stadium were detained earlier in the morning, in a measure of the issue's sensitivity ahead of Friday's Olympics opening ceremony.

China has accused followers of the Dalai Lama of stirring riots and protests in Tibetan regions in March in a bid to upstage Olympic preparations. The Dalai Lama has denied the claim and said he does not oppose the Games.

But groups campaigning for an independent Tibet have said the Olympics should be an opportunity to voice criticism of Chinese policy.

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