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qi-jia-zhen-20120-sept-2ndDharamshala: To celebrate Tibet's 52nd Democracy Day, Qi Shi Cultural Foundation, a Chinese social activist group based in Australia, held a function in tribute to imprisoned Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen.

On September 2, the famous filmmaker was honoured with a special award for his 2008 documentary film ‘Leaving Fear Behind'.

The Amdo region native is currently serving a six year sentence following his arrest in March 2008. He was charged with "state subversion" after his documentary was smuggled abroad and distributed on the internet and at film festivals around the world.

Dhondup Wangchen along with his friend, a senior Tibetan monk, Jigme Gyatso conceived the idea for ‘Leaving Fear Behind.' They spent five months documenting interviews of 108 Tibetans discussing the political situation, all of whom agreed to have their faces shown on camera.

The 25-minute documentary shared Tibetans' views on His Holiness and the Chinese government in the year leading up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics and their hopes and frustrations living under the Chinese regime.

Dhondup Wangchen's daughter Lhamo Dolma was present at the ceremony to receive the award held at the Tibet Museum in Mcleod Ganj, India.

Kalon Dicki Chhoyang from the Department of Information and International Relations spoke at the event. She expressed her gratitude to the foundation for awarding the prize to a Tibetan and acknowledged the foundation's contribution towards human rights and justice.

Following her, Mrs Qi Jia Zhen, President of the foundation spoke. She commended Dhondup Wangchen for his courage and sacrifice.

"He went on to shoot and distribute the film; even though he knew the repercussions that were in store for him."

To serve his sentence, Dhondup leaves behind a broken home. His wife and loving children wait day and night for his return. Mrs Qi thus, calls on the Chinese Government to immediately and unconditionally release him. In addition, she implies that they take care of Dhondup's rehabilitation to compensate for all the hardship he and his family have been put through.

"As members of a Han Chinese NGO we should feel ashamed and thus would like to take this opportunity to tell the several million Tibetan brothers and sisters that we feel guilty and - We are Sorry!" Mrs Qi added, "2012 has been a very unfortunate year with many Tibetans choosing to highlight the "No freedom or give me death" concept. Most of those that sacrificed their lives by setting themselves ablaze were young blooming flowers of life."

On behalf of all the members, she expressed her deep sympathy for the self-immolators and stated that, "To combat human rights abuses in Tibet, Tibetans and other minorities in China should join hands and work together to change this unreasonable state."

Revealing why this honour was bestowed on the filmmaker, Mrs Qi Jia Zhen said, "We hope that this award is a small step forward in promoting understanding between both the Tibetan and Chinese people. Only in this way will there be progressive realization of national unity based on equality."

This sentiment is shared by many, not only in the Chinese community, but worldwide. Numerous human rights organizations have condemned the arrests of Jigme Gyatso and Dhondup Wanghcen. Amnesty International protested the arrests of both men and labelled the filmmaker a prisoner of conscience.

Many other groups such as Human Rights Watch, Front Line, The Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, and the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy have all advocated on Dhondup Wangchen's behalf.

A coalition of human rights and Tibetan activist groups calling for Dhondup Wangchen's release held a rally in New York City's Times Square on 9 March 2012, the 53rd anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising.

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