'I Won't Regret to Die'

As the Olympic flame flickers atop the Bird's Nest, foreigners with human rights torches of their own have chosen this moment to stage brazen protests.

Pro-Tibetan activists have entered China on tourist visas, knowing that the worst punishment they'll face is deportation. For Tibetans living in China, any protest calling for a free Tibet means almost certain jail time.

"China is a successful country and it's growing, but the people of China, they deserve the truth," said Pemba Yoko, a protester with Students for a Free Tibet.

And that truth, according to the group and many Tibetans who are living in exile, is that China is suppressing Tibetans' human rights and systematically extinguishing Tibetan culture, language and religion.

Olympics Serve as Platform for Protests

Tibet has been a mecca for tourists, with attractions like the dazzling Potala Palace in Lhasa, the capital. This year, images of Tibet in the media have been dominated by coverage of violent clashes between Tibetans and Chinese police.

That, in turn, has led to protestors interrupting the Olympic torch relays in several cities around the world, with Tibetans and supporters calling for the return of the Dalai Lama, the region's spiritual leader, to his homeland, where Chinese officials have banned him for decades.

But some Chinese citizens believe the protesters have it all wrong.

"I don't think they should do this," one woman said. "Tibet is already very free."

But few have heard from the people still living in Tibet.

'I Won't Regret to Die'

One of them is Dhondup Wangchen. The 34-year-old Tibetan amateur filmmaker has decided to show the outside world what he says nobody knows about his country. He shows rare footage of Tibetans speaking out about life under Chinese rule in a documentary filmed entirely by native Tibetans.

"We started gathering facts about the real opinions of the Tibetans inside Tibet, what they think about the 2008 Games," he said. "Whether they support His Holiness the Dalai Lama."

One monk says in the film that if the 2008 Olympic Games take place, they should stand for freedom and peace, but because he has neither, he says, he'd rather not have the Games there.

Even at the start of this project, Wangchen knew he was putting his life on the line.

"I won't regret to die on this soil since the reason why I died would be for the sake of all the Tibetans," he said.

But, as a precaution, he smuggled his wife and children out of the country and then smuggled himself back in with a camera. He'd never filmed anything before.

"I'm not satisfied with the filming," he said. "I've never touched a camera before and have no experience handling a camera."

With the help of three volunteers, Wangchen has traversed thousands of miles, often by motorbike, across cold and sometimes barren terrain. The team collected about 40 hours of interviews with Tibetans who spoke about life under Chinese rule.

"The main difficulties we faced in making this film were asking people to show their faces on camera, not being able to guarantee their safety, and to gain their consent," he said.

The Chinese government says that exiles don't really speak for Tibetans, but those featured in Wangchen's film say otherwise.

"Life is very hard, people don't see it," one interview subject said. "Lots of tourists come to Lhasa and the Chinese government sweet-talks them, showing them what they want to show."

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