Award-winning Tibetan director Pema Tseden was detained by Chinese authorities after what’s been described as a dispute over left luggage at an airport in Xining, western China on Saturday, the Associated Press reports. He was subsequently hospitalized Monday night, prompting the Film Directors Guild of China to issue a statement calling for explanation.
While China and Tibet remain on tenuous ground — Lady Gaga and President Obama have recently gotten into hot water with the Chinese for meeting with the Dalai Lama — Tseden is understood to maintain a privileged place within the community. He served on the jury of the Shanghai International Film Festival this month and is one of the few Tibetans to have graduated from the Beijing Film Academy.
Tseden’s films, which include 2015 Venice Horizons entry Tharlo, 2011’s Hong Kong Film Festival pic Old Dog and 2009’s Locarno selection The Search, are all shot in the Tibetan language, and are not overly critical of China.
Tseden’s producer Sonam told The Guardian that following an altercation with security officers, the director was asked to sign a confession admitting he had “disturbed the social order.” When he refused, a police officer told him “disobedient” people like him would be detained. On Sunday, he was ordered held for five days of administrative detention and entered the hospital the next day complaining of headache, chest pain and high blood pressure.
In a statement released today by the guild, of which Tseden is a member, the org said “no details have yet been officially issued concerning specific laws or regulations that police employed to detain him. This all took place four days ago. Today many in the film industry and wider society are using the internet and social media to express their concern for Pema.
“FDGC is a professional association for film directors in China. The protection of rights and interests of its members is our basic duty. We will be paying very close attention to the reasons for this incident and related developments. We call upon authorities to respond in a timely and considerate manner and to release all details, including the reasons why police took such forceful measures, whether these measures were standard, and whether violent or excessive enforcement was used.”