At the Labour Party conference on September 27, two activists used the question-and-answer session of a discussion on Why China and Britain need a stronger partnership to request the release of Wangchen as a goodwill gesture.
During the keynote speeches by former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott and Mark Hendrick MP - chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on China - Tibet was only briefly mentioned. Lord Prescott referred to human rights as an area of disagreement between the UK and China, while Liu Xiaoming highlighted the 2008 readjustment of the British government's century-old position on Tibet. Referring to former Foreign Secretary David Milliband's ministerial statement, which recognises Tibet as being part of China, he omitted to mention that it also suggests long-term stability will require autonomy for Tibetans as well as respect for human rights.
During the question-and-answer session, Tsering Passang of the Tibet Society asked the ambassador to look into the case of Dhondup Wangchen. Wangchen's documentary Leaving Fear Behind presents the opinions of Tibetans from eastern Amdo Province on the 2008 Beijing Olympics - many of which are critical of the Chinese government. Passang asked that the film-maker be released, since he has done nothing more than film ordinary Tibetans giving their honest views.
The ambassador was visibly surprised by the question and claimed not to know about the case, although he said, "If [Dhondup] had been arrested then he must have done something wrong."
Paul Golding of the Tibet Society then approached the ambassador and asked if he would pursue the issue if he were provided with more information, to which Mr Xiaoming replied one of his staff would follow up the matter if the society sent him more details.
The Tibet Society is now writing to the Chinese embassy and will encourage Lord Prescott and Mark Hendrick to do likewise. It will also invite them to meet Dhondup Wangchen’s wife, Lhamo Tso, during her visit to the UK in October.