Tibetans urge justice for political prisoners

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Photos by The Origami staff

By Beatrice S. Paez

The freezing temperature couldn’t keep Toronto Tibetans young and old from marking International Human Rights Day, Dec. 10,  with a candlelight vigil held outside Parkdale Collegiate  in honour of political prisoners sanctioned for speaking out in Tibet.

Local Tibetan organizations also chose the occasion to kick off an international campaign for the safe release of Dhondup Wangchen, a Tibetan filmmaker imprisoned for his subversive documentary, Leaving Fear Behind. The film featured more than a hundred interviews with Tibetans, speaking out on a diversity of issues, from the Dalai Lama to the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

His six-year sentence in China is set to end in Spring 2014, but many fear for his overall health and well-being.

“He’s just one of the many political prisoners in Tibet. They’re imprisoned  for small things like making a film, getting people’s opinions…” says Urgen Badheytsang, national director of Students for a Free Tibet Canada. “They come out with the worst health, they can’t function properly, they have psychological damage, they have irreversible physical damage.”

Badheytsang and several volunteers were tasked with folding paper cranes they’re hoping to send to Chinese prisons, along with letters urging authorities to abstain from the use of torture.

“In ancient Japanese folklore, there’s a saying that if you make a thousand origami cranes, a crane can make your wish come true. And our wish is for his safe return,” says Badheytsang.

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