WASHINGTON - Family members of Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen say he was released from prison Thursday after serving a six year sentence in China.
They say after his release in Qinghai's provincial capital of Xining, he was driven about two hours to his sister's house.
The self-taught cameraman and video-activist was arrested in 2008 after travelling across Tibet with his assistant to film the documentary "Leaving Fear Behind." He was later convicted of shooting a film without permission.
Dhondup Wangchen's assistant, Golog Jigme, recently arrived in Dharamsala, India after an epic escape from China that involved walking through some of the highest and most rugged land in the world.
Speaking from Switzerland, his cousin Jamyang Tsultrim told VOA's Tibetan service the filmmaker suffered in prison because of kidney problems.
"I asked him how his health was and he said that he wasn’t doing that well and that his immediate concern is to be able to see his parents and reunite with his wife and children," said Jamyang.
His wife, Lhamo Tso, who now lives in the western U.S. city of San Francisco, said she was left speechless when she heard her husband's voice on the phone Thursday.
"My children and I, and my husband’s parents, have waited and worried all these years. But when I was able to talk to my husband this morning, I couldn’t say anything but cry," said Lhamo.
“Leaving Fear Behind” has been translated into a dozen languages and has been screened in more than 30 countries worldwide. In the documentary, ordinary Tibetan farmers and nomads talk about their lives and a desire to see the Dalai Lama return to his homeland.
Chinese officials have not offered any comment on Dhondup Wangchen's release.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Tibetan service.