Wang Lixiong, a Chinese scholar who has written extensively on the situation in Tibet, is one of the 28 writers receiving the Hellman/Hammett grant from Human Rights Watch. The Hellman/Hammett grants are given annually to writers around the world who have been targets of political persecution.

According to a press statement by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on July 29, 2003, “A diverse group of 28 writers from 13 countries are receiving Hellman/Hammett grants in recognition of their courage in the face of political persecution.” Thirteen of the 28 grant recipients have asked Human Rights Watch not to release their names for fear of further reprisals, a larger proportion than in previous years. Ten recipients have fled to exile.

The grant program began in 1989 when executors of the estate of American playwright Lillian Hellman asked Human Rights Watch to design a program in her name and that of her long-time companion the novelist Dashiell Hammett. The Hellman/Hammett funds provide assistance to writers in financial need as a result of expressing their views.

According to HRW, “Wang Lixiong (China) writes political fiction and essays. He first came to the censors’ attention with publication of Drifting, an account of his solitary voyage down the Yellow River in 1984. The trip, which took him to a Tibetan area, awakened his interest in Tibetan issues. Subsequently, he made ten trips to Tibet and wrote Sky Burial –The Fate of Tibet, a comprehensive and objective report on Tibet’s independence movement. In 1999, while traveling in predominantly Muslim Xinjiang in northwest China, Wang Lixiong was accused of leaking state secrets and detained for more than a month. On release, he continued writing and published Melting Power – Ascension from the Ranks, a book about political reform. Since then, he has been under heavy surveillance and his writing is banned. He held a job at Friends of Nature, a Chinese environmental NGO, but in February 2003, government officials warned Friends of Nature that his continued employment put its registration at risk, and he was dismissed.”

The Hellman/Hammett grants are announced each spring. In the thirteen previous years of the program, more than 400 writers received grants totaling well over one million dollars. The Hellman/Hammett program also makes small emergency grants from time to time throughout the year to writers who have an urgent need to leave their country, who need immediate medical treatment arising from prison conditions or torture, or who find themselves in desperate financial circumstances as a result of political persecution.

You can find more information about the grant from Human Rights Watch.