Six Vietnamese Writers Awarded Human Rights Prize

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An international human rights group honored six Vietnamese writers last week for their contributions to free expression in the cause of democracy. The honorees were among a diverse group of 42 writers from 20 countries who have received the Hellman/Hammett award, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.

They include novelist and journalist Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, human rights activist Pham Van Troi, poet and military veteran Tran Duc Thach, and teacher and writer Vu Van Hung. All four are serving prison terms in Vietnam. HRW also honored bloggers Bui Thanh Hieu and Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh. They were detained after criticizing China's claims to much of the South China Sea, and criticizing Hanoi for bowing to Chinese pressure and failing to defend its own maritime sovereignty.

"Vietnamese writers are frequently harassed, or even jailed, for peacefully expressing their views," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of HRW. "By honoring courageous writers who have suffered political persecution, lost their jobs, or even sacrificed their freedom, we hope to bring international attention to voices that the Vietnamese government is trying to silence."

The Hellman/Hammett grants are given annually to writers around the world who have been targets of political persecution or human rights abuses.