Internationally renowned Tibetan film director detained in China

[30 June 2016] An award-winning Tibetan film director, who recently had his latest film showcased in the UK, has been detained by the Chinese authorities. Pema Tseden was held for two days at Xining airport and then taken to hospital having sustained injuries whilst in detention. Pema’s current status and condition is not known.

Pema TsedenOn 25 June, Pema Tseden (pictured right) was detained by authorities as he arrived at the airport in Xining, the capital of Qinghai province. The 46-year old was held for two days and then transferred to a hospital as he had sustained injuries whilst in custody.

A witness, who visited Pema whilst he was still at a detention centre, said he saw “many injuries to his wrist and hand” caused by handcuffs and that Pema had complained of high blood pressure, pains in his chest and heart and a loss of feeling in several fingers.

There has been no further news on Pema’s condition or status since he was transferred to hospital. It is believed he is still officially in detention despite being hospitalised.

According to Radio Free Asia, Xining’s municipal police department stated the film-maker had a dispute with security guards at the airport over a forgotten piece of luggage and had been detained after refusing to cooperate.

Pema Tseden’s films focus on contemporary Tibet but he has always been careful to steer clear of politics. The subject matter is often of how traditional values clash with modern society. A colleague of Pema’s was quoted in The Guardian as saying, “He is not an activist. He is an artist… He never talks about politics.”

Pema TsedenPema’s latest film, Tharlo, featured at this year’s Chinese Visual Festival held in May at King’s College London. Pema was also a special guest at the Festival in 2014, participating in a Q&A following the screening of his film Old Dog.

The Film Directors’ Guild of China issued a statement saying, “We call on the relevant authorities to quickly respond to the association’s concern, and make public the whole story of this incident, including the reason for police taking forceful measures.”

Pema Tseden was born in 1969 in Gade county, Golog prefecture, Amdo (now incorporated in to China’s Qinghai province). He studied film-making at the Beijing Film Academy, and in 2005 won the Golden Rooster Award for Best Directorial Debut for his film The Silent Holy Stone

Further reading: The Guardian | RFA | Phayul | TPI


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