DHARAMSHALA, December 21: Four Tibetan writers whose names have not been revealed fearing further persecution are amongst the winners of this year’s Hellman/Gammett grants by Human Rights Watch for their “commitment to free expression and their courage in the face of persecution.”
41 writers from 19 countries were named as awardees of the grant given annually to writers who have been targets of political persecution or human rights abuses and are in financial need.
The New York based global rights group, while announcing the grantees said this year’s winners, which include journalists, bloggers, and poets, “have faced persecution for their work, generally by government authorities seeking to prevent them from publishing information and opinions.”
“The Hellman/Hammett grants help writers who have suffered because they published information or expressed ideas that criticise or offend people in power,” HRW said. “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.”
Six of this year’s winners remain anonymous, which includes the four Tibetan writers. HRW, while noting that the move was necessary to “prevent further persecution” of the writers, said the concentration of grantees in certain countries points to “especially severe repression of free expression by those governments.”
“Governments have used arbitrary arrest and detention, politically motivated criminal charges, and overly broad libel and sedition laws to try to silence this year’s Hellman/Hammett awardees,” the group said. “They have been harassed, threatened, assaulted, indicted, jailed on trumped-up charges, or tortured for peacefully expressing their views or informing the public.”
The grants are named for the late American playwright Lillian Hellman and her longtime companion, the novelist Dashiell Hammett. Over the past 22 years, more than 700 writers from 92 countries have received Hellman/Hammett grants of up to US$10,000 each, totaling more than $3 million. 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.
Tibetan singers, writers, and artists promoting Tibetan national identity and culture have been the target of China’s ongoing crackdown on intellectuals, especially after the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
In August this year, the exile Tibetan administration submitted a detailed profile of 64 Tibetan intellectuals to the UN Special Rapporteur in Geneva and urged for necessary inquiry into their cases.
Calling it the “harshest” crackdown on Tibetan artists and intellectuals since the Cultural Revolution, the Central Tibetan Administration said that at least 24 Tibetans intellectuals have been given sentences ranging from few months to life imprisonment for exercising their freedom of expression.
“This new generation of young Tibetans born and educated under Chinese Communist rule have edited banned magazines and are tech-savvy bloggers imprisoned for gathering, expressing and sharing information about conditions in Tibet especially after the March 2008 demonstrations across Tibet,” CTA said.
The exile Tibetan administration noted that the whereabouts of about 37 Tibetan intellectuals remain unknown, while 12 intellectuals were released on fear of custodial death after excessive torture during detention by the Chinese authorities.