Eight Vietnamese writers are among a diverse group of 48 writers from 24 countries who have received the prestigious Hellman/Hammett award recognizing writers Posts who demonstrate courage and conviction in the face of political persecution, Human Rights Watch said today.“Vietnamese writers are frequently threatened, assaulted, or even jailed for peacefully expressing their views,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, which administers the annual Hellman/Hammett awards. “By honoring these brave writers, who have suffered so much, are persecuted, fired, and even imprisoned, we’re giving an international platform to those the Vietnamese government wants to silence.”
This year’s Vietnamese award-winners have all seen their writing and activism suppressed by the government in an attempt to restrict free speech, control independent media, and limit open access and use of the internet.The grant winners have all been arrested and detained, now or in the past. Some have been attacked and injured by officially sanctioned mobs, or denounced and humiliated in orchestrated public meetings. Every single one has been targeted by government actions that disrupted their personal and professional lives, ranging from cutting their telephone lines and restricting their movements to pressuring family members to urge them to cease their activities. The award winners include Cu Huy Ha Vu, a legal advocate; Ho Thi Bich Khuong, a human rights activist; Le Tran Luat, a former lawyer; Nguyen Bac Truyen, a former political prisoner; Nguyen Xuan Nghia, a free speech activist; Phan Thanh Hai, a legal activist; Ta Phong Tan, a blogger; and Vi Duc Hoi, a former party official.
Eight Vietnamese writers are among a diverse group of 48 writers from 24 countries who received the prestigious Hellman/Hammett award on September 14, 2011. Clockwise from upper left: legal activist Cu Huy Ha Vu (© Cu Huy Ha Vu and family), human rights activist Ho Thi Bich Khuong (© Ho Thi Bich Khuong), former lawyer Le Tran Luat (© Private), former political prisoner Nguyen Bac Truyen (© Private), writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia (© Private), free speech advocate Phan Thanh Hai (© Phan Thanh Hai), former police officer Ta Phong Tan (© Ta Phong Tan) and democracy activist Vi Duc Hoi (© Private)
In 1989, the trustees appointed in Hellman’s will asked Human Rights Watch to devise a program to help writers who were targeted for expressing views that their governments oppose, for criticizing government officials or actions, or for writing about subjects that their governments did not want reported.Over the past 22 years, more than 700 writers from 92 countries have received Hellman/Hammett grants. Over the years, more than $3 million has been granted to writers facing persecution. The program also gives small emergency grants to writers who have an urgent need to leave their country or who need immediate medical treatment after serving prison terms or enduring torture. “The Hellman/Hammett grants aim to help writers who have suffered because they published information or expressed ideas that criticize policy or offend people in power,” said Lawrence Moss, coordinator of the Hellman/Hammett grant program. “Many of the writers honored by these grants share a common purpose with Human Rights Watch: to protect the rights of vulnerable people by shining a light on abuses and building pressure for change.”
Biographies of 2011 Hellman/Hammett awardees from Vietnam:Dr. Cu Huy Ha Vu, 54, is an artist with a doctorate in law from the Sorbonne. He comes from an elite family that includes senior members of the Vietnamese Communist Party and former revolutionaries. Vu is most famous for his two lawsuits against Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung: the first for in Vietnam’s Central Highlands and the secondIn addition, Vu is known for his public criticism of high-ranking government officials, including Lt. Gen. Vu Hai Trieu of the Public Security Ministry, disapproved of by the government, and the communist party general secretary of Ho Chi Minh City, Le Thanh Hai, for . Vu was arrested in November. He was tried on April 4 for violating article 88 of the penal code, which prohibits conducting propaganda against the state, and sentenced to seven years in prison. Ho Thi Bich Khuong, 44, is among an emerging and rapidly expanding group of farmers who use the Internet to defend the rights of landless poor people and to promote freedom of expression and freedom of association. She publishes she and her family have confronted, and writes about the . In April 2007 she was arrested in an Internet café in Nghe An province and sentenced to two years in prison for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state,” under article 258 of the penal code. Her memoir of her time in prison was published in serialized form in July and August 2009 by Nguoi Viet Online, one of the most influential Vietnamese-American newspapers in Orange County, California. On January 15, Ho Thi Bich Khuong was arrested again in Nghe An and has since been held in detention. Le Tran Luat, 41, is a former lawyer who has defended numerous politically sensitive cases in Vietnam. He is also a prolific blogger who writes about legal reform and human rights issues. Authorities forced his law practice, the Legal Right Firm, to close in 2009. Le Tran Luat has from the police since 2008 for agreeing to take on sensitive cases, such as Since the closure of his law firm, Le Tran Luat has not been able to secure employment because police have pressured potential employers not to hire him. Le Tran Luat’s writing analyzes the weaknesses of the legal system in Vietnam and strongly defends democracy activists. His blog was hacked and destroyed by unknown cyber assailants in November. Nguyen Bac Truyen, 43, is a former political prisoner. His contributions to overseas news websites describing repression, injustice, and human rights violations committed by the government led to his arrest in November 2006 under article 88 of the penal code for propaganda against the state. The authorities sentenced him to three-and-a-half years in prison. Since being released in May 2010, he has been under probation/house arrest and faced constant harassment. Nguyen Bac Truyen’s writings since his imprisonment are focused on his fellow political prisoners and the difficulties and discrimination that former political prisoners face. He has been an outspoken member of the Vietnamese Political and Religious Prisoners Fellowship Association, which provides support to prisoners and their families. Nguyen Xuan Nghia, 62, is a journalist, novelist, poet, and editorial board member of the underground democracy bulletin, To Quoc (Fatherland). As a journalist, he wrote for the main government papers until 2003, when the government banned him because of his pro-democracy activities. A leader of the banned pro-democracy group Bloc 8406, Nguyen Xuan Nghia was arrested in September 2008 and charged with conducting anti-government propaganda under penal code article 88. On October 8, 2009, after more than a year in pretrial detention, he was sentenced to six years in prison and then four years under house arrest by the People’s Court of Hai Phong. Phan Thanh Hai, 42, is a dissident writer who blogsunder the pen name “Anhbasg.” A founding member of the Club for Free Journalists, Phan Thanh Hai’s writings aim to promote government transparency, freedom of expression, and freedom of association. After participating in a protest in Ho Chi Minh City against the Beijing Olympics in December 2007, police put Phan Thanh Hai under intrusive surveillance, and detained and interrogated him many times. He has also not been able to secure any regular employment due to police harassment. On October 18, police arrested Phan Thanh Hai in Ho Chi Minh City for allegedly conducting propaganda against the state under article 88 of the penal code. He remains in detention. Ta Phong Tan, 43, is a former police officer and a former communist party member. She began her writing career as a freelance journalist in 2004. Her articles appeared in many mainstream newspapers including Tuoi Tre (Youth), Nguoi Lao Dong (Laborer), Vietnam Net, Phap Luat TP Ho Chi Minh (Ho Chi Minh City Law), Thanh Tra (inspectorate), Can Tho, and Binh Duong. Since March 2006, dozens of her articles have been published on the website of BBC’s Vietnamese service. This eventually prompted the Communist Party of Vietnam to revoke her membership. Since launching her blog “Justice & Truth” (Cong ly & Su that) in November 2006, she has become one of the most prolific bloggers in Vietnam. She has authored more than 700 articles about social issues, including theIn addition, using her former knowledge and experience of police work, she provides insightful observations about widespread abuse of power by the police in Vietnam. As a result of her writing, police have continually harassed Ta Phong Tan. Since 2008, she has been detained and interrogated on numerous occasions about her activities, her associates, and the contents of her blog. Ta Phong Tan was arrested on September 5, and her whereabouts are unknown. Vi Duc Hoi, 55, is a writer and blogger from the remote province of Lang Son in northern Vietnam, near the China border. He is an ethnic Tay, the largest minority group in Vietnam. Vi Duc Hoi quietly started supporting calls for respect of human rights and greater democracy in 2006, while still holding important positions in the Communist Party of Vietnam and government apparatus in Lang Son. He was the head of the Committee for Propaganda and a member of the Party’s Standing Committee of Huu Lung district. After his views became known, he was expelled from the party, subject to orchestrated public denunciation sessions, and detained and interrogated. His essays on democracy, pluralism, and human rights and his memoir , Facing Reality, My Path to Joining the Democratic Movement (Doi Mat: Duong di den voi phong trao dan chu), have been widely circulated on the Internet. Vi Duc Hoi was arrested in October 2010 and charged with conducting propaganda against the state under article 88 of the penal code. He was convicted to eight years of imprisonment in January, reduced on appeal in April to five years and then three years on probation.
Quotes from Vietnamese Hellman Hammett Awardees for 2011
Via Human Right Watch: Vietnamese Writers Honored for Commitment to Rights