Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Visions of Resistance and Survival: Looking Back at the Hong Kong Vietnamese Detention Camps

Figure 8.3 Hope of Freedom. Original by Trinh Quoc Lan, artist. Courtesy of Special Collections and Archives, University of California, Irvine Libraries. Project Ngoc Records on Southeast Asian Refugees (MS-SEA016).
My article on the artwork and literature from the Hong Kong Detention Camps after the Vietnamese boat people exodus is now out as a book chapter.

The chapter is: "Visions of resistance and survival from Hong Kong detention camps." It's chapter 8, pp. 99-115 in the book, Chinese/Vietnamese Diaspora: Revisiting the Boat People, edited by Yuk Wah Chan of City University of Hong Kong, from Routledge. It is the outgrowth of a workshop I was graced to attend at City University of Hong Kong back in October 2009.

The essay analyzes in detail just some of the artwork and literature from the refugee detention camps in Hong Kong, preserved in the Paul Tran and Project Ngoc Papers, originally given to University of California, Irvine's, Southeast Asian Archive, then under Anne Frank.

I write on the "barbed wire" theme and there are extended references to variations of the "chicken wing" metaphor. There is also a page on the Project Ngoc's "Proposal for Libraries in Refugee Camps." I also include figures on ethnic Chinese from Vietnam who were admitted to Hong Kong. The strange thing is when they arrive in the United States, their Chinese ethnicity is erased and they are treated as Vietnamese refugees. In total, almost half a million ethnic Chinese left Vietnam before September 1979, and at one point, some 60-70 percent of the boat people were ethnic Chinese from Vietnam, according to another contributor to the book, Ramses Amer. In my chapter, there are 25 citations (see below) including several to UC Irvine Libraries' Special Collections and Archives finding aids: Guide to the Paul Tran Files on Southeast Asian Refugees and Guide to the Project Ngoc Records.
Figure 8.4. Camp protesters. Original by Pham Tien Dung, artist. Courtesy of Special Collections and Archives, University of California, Irvine. Paul Tran Files (MS-SEA002).
Little Saigon community activist Paul Tran donated much of the materials from the Detention Centers to UC Irvine. The book notes: "When the material were given to Mr. Tran at the time, the authors' intentions were to get their voices heard in the outside world, and the materials were not meant to be sold commercially." Project Ngoc was a student group that sent UC Irvine students and other volunteers to help out the refugees in the camps. I hope this essay sparks further research interest in the collection.

Figure 8.6 Forced repatriation. Original by Tran Ngoc Dong, artist. Courtesy of Special Collections and Archives, University of California, Irvine Libraries. Paul Tran Files (MS-SEA002).
There is more meaty stuff in the volume, so hopefully your library will pick up the unfortunately pricey volume. I found myself learning a lot more about the topic, including that Cholon is misnamed as Saigon's Chinatown (read Li Tana's chapter). More information on the contents of the volume is

Part I: Revisiting an era of Refugees and Boat People 1. Revisiting the Vietnamese Refugee Era: An Asian Perspective from Hong Kong - Yuk Wah Chan 2. Rethinking the Vietnamese Exodus: Hong Kong in Comparative Perspective - David W. Haines 3. The Boat People Crisis of 1978–1979 and the Hong Kong Experience Examined through the Ethnic Chinese Dimension - Ramses Amer 4. In Search of History: The Chinese in South Vietnam, 1945–1975 - Li Tana Part II: Hong Kong Vietnamese Boat People and Their Settlement 5. The Vietnamese Minority: Boatpeople Settlement in Hong Kong - Yuk Wah Chan And Terence C.T. Shum 6. Vietnamese Youth and Their Adaptation in Hong Kong - Ocean W. K. Chan 7. Thanh Loc- Hong Kong’s Refugee Screening System: From A Refugee Perspective - Peter Hansen 8. Visions of Resistance and Survival from Hong Kong Detention Camps - Daniel C. Tsang 9. Vietnamese Boat People in Hong Kong: Visual Images and Stories - Sophia Suk-Mun Law Part III: Hong Kong and Beyond 10. Sojourn in Hong Kong, Settlement in America: Experiences of Chinese-Vietnamese Refugees - Jonathan H.X. Lee 11. Dark Tourism, Diasporic Memory and Disappeared History: The Contested Meaning of the Former Indochinese Refugee Camp at Pulau Galang - Ashley Carruthers and Boitran Huynh-Beattie 12. The Repatriated – From Refugee Migration to Marriage Migration - Yuk Wah Chan 13. Epilogue - Yuk Wah Chan.

Another contributor visited UC Irvine and Little Saigon last year to talk about the detention camp artwork. Sophia Law, of Lingnam University in Hong Kong, was interviewed on Subversity then.

My thanks to Trinh Luu for helping with the translations.

To facilitate further research, here are the references in my article:

Amer, R. (1991) The Ethnic Vietnamese in Vietnam and Sino-Vietnamese relations,
Selangor: Forum.

Bale, C. (1990) 'Vietnamese boat People', in R.Y.C. Wong and lY.S. Cheng (eds), The
Other Hong Kong Report 1990, Hong Kong: Chinese University Press. p. 171.

Brook, R. (1996) 'Arbitrary detention of Vietnamese asylum seekers', Hong Kong Human
Rights Monitor Newsletter, June,
htm (accessed 7 September 2009).

Fassi, L. (2010) 'Terra incognita: Luigi Fassi on the art of Danh Vo', Artforum, 4S(6):152- 59.

Fujita-Rony, D. and Frank, A. (2003) 'Archiving histories: The Southeast Asian Archive at University of California, Irvine', Amerasia Journal, 29(3): 155.

Guide to the Paul Tran files on Southeast Asian refugees (2003) MS-SEA02, Special
Collections and Archives, University of California, Irvine, Libraries, www.oac.cdlib.
org/findaid/ark:113030/tfSf59pltgl (accessed 6 September 2009).

Guide to the Project Ngoc Records (2003) MS-SEA016, Special Co\1ections and Archives,
University of California, Irvine, Libraries, /ark:1130301
ktSz09pSpd?query=Project%20Ngoc (accessed 30 August 2009).

Hong Kong Government (1991) 'Ethnic origins of arrivals' 1991, in Monthly statistical
report (arrivals and departures) (March), SRD 704/ 1/1, located in Project Ngoc
collection, MS-SEAOI6, Box 1, Folder 42, Special Collections and Archives, University
of California, Irvine, Libraries.

Hunt, P.G. (1996) 'Dragons and chicken wings: the anomalies of the involvement of
Vietnamese refugees in crime in Hong Kong, 1989- 95', Master thesis, University of
Hong Kong, (accessed 8 May 2010).

Knudsen, J.C. (1992) Chicken Wings: Refugee Stories from a Concrete Hell,
Bergen: Magnat Forlag.

--(2005) Capricious Worlds: Vietnamese Life Journeys, Lit Verlag, Muenster.
Lam, A. (2005), Perfume Dreams, Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora, Berkeley,
CA: Heyday Books.

Lam, L. (1994) 'Hong Kong Chinese: facing the political changes in 1997', in H.
Adelman (ed.), Legitimate and illegitimate Discrimination: New Issues in Migration,
Toronto: York Lanes Press, pp. 135- 52.

Law, S.S. (2008) 'Art in adversity-C.A.R.E. at Lingan University,' in Hong Kong Visual Arts Yearbook, Hong Kong: Chinese University of Hong Kong, pp. 143-63.

Nguyen, C. (2000) 'Hainan, Hong Kong, and Tuen Mun camp', in M.T. Cargill and J.Q.
Huynh (eds), Voices of Vietnamese Boat People: Nineteen Narratives of Escape and
Survival, Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., pp. 99- 106.

Project Ngoc (1988) The Forgotten People: Vietnamese Refugees in Hong Kong: A
Critical Report, Irvine, CA: The Project.

Robertson, G. (2002), 'Pam Baker: Hong Kong lawyer who fought for rights of
Vietnamese refugees', The Guardian, 27 April,
apr/27/guardianobituaries (accessed 7 September 2009).

Rumbaut, R.G. (2007) 'Vietnam' in M.C. Waters and R. Ueda (eds.) The New Americans:
A Guide to Immigration Since 1965, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,
pp.652- 73.

Skeldon, R. (1994) 'Hong Kong's response to the Indochinese influx, 1975-93', The
Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 534.

Tran, D.T. (1990) Writers and Artists in Vietnamese Gulags, with Choe's Cartoons from
Vietnam, Idaho: Century Publishing House.

Trieu, M.M. (2008) 'Ethnic chameleons and the contexts of identity: A comparative
look at the dynamics of intra-national ethnic identity construction for 1.5 and second generation Chinese-Vietnamese and Vietnamese Americans,' PhD thesis, University of California, Irvine.

--(2009) Identity Formation among Chinese- Vietnamese Americans: Being, Becoming,
and Belonging, EI Paso, TX: LFB Scholarly Publishing.

U.S. General Accounting Office (1996) Vietnamese Asylum Seekers: Refugee Screening
Procedures under the Comprehensive Plan of Action, Washington, DC: The General
Accounting Office.

'Visions from Prison' (1995) in N. Morris and OJ Rothman (eds.), The Oxford History
of the Prison: The Practice of Punishment in Western Society, New York, NY: Oxford
University Press, 8 pages of unnumbered plates between pages 274 and 275.

Zinoman, P. (2001) 'Reading revolutionary prison memoirs', in H.T.H Tai (ed.), The Country of Memory: Remaking the Past in Late Socialist Vietnam, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, pp. 21-45.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Remembering Bob Jones

Updated 10 September: Prayers will be said for Bob Jones at St. Anselm's Cross Cultural Community Center [correction: NOT today] next Saturday September 17 at 5 pm, according to Nguoi Viet [Correction: which gave the wrong date. The correct info is posted [see image below] at the center's door.] Address: 11277 Garden Grove Blvd [at Euclid] Garden Grove, CA 92843. See also video of dedication of Bob Jones Building in Rochester MN earlier this year where daughter Kieu Oanh spoke.

Bob Jones, a former American diplomat in Saigon, and longtime community activist most recently in Little Saigon, passed away after a long illness. He was a friend and believer in archiving the histories of diverse immigrants, especially Vietnamese, having mastered Vietnamese during his time in Saigon, where he befriended Yen Do, who would later found Nguoi Viet Daily News in Westminster, California, frequenting book stalls in Saigon with him in quest of Vietnamese literature, in the war years, he once told me.

I had a long phone conversation with him a few months ago, at a time when he was being treated for colon cancer, when we discussed his being a guest on my show to reflect on his full life. Unfortunately, it never came to be. I regret not capturing for posterity his reflections on his life's work. (Perhaps the NSA has the audio of that phone conversation that lasted over an hour.) In Saigon, he collected a massive amount of Vietnamese literature and art, which he shipped to the United States. I hope that collection finds a good home. His smaller collection of gay community publications went from a storage locker in Orange County to a community archive in the Midwest, he told me.

He also served actively for many years on the advisory board of UC Irvine's Southeast Asian Archive at UCI Libraries, giving his time, effort and wisdom to the collection here. I remember him as a warm friend, living in a small apartment in the heart of Little Saigon, who would regularly turn up at UCI Libraries with latest issues of local community magazines and newspapers he had picked up, for the archive. He was a true community activist who gave himself fully to the community, and worked to make sure the written record was not erased. His colleagues at St. Anselm's Cross Cultural Community Center plan a local memorial event, forthcoming. - Daniel C. Tsang.

An obituary released today by his daughter, Kieu Oanh follows.



Robert R. “Bob” Jones III, 69, a longtime resident of Rochester, died peacefully at his home on Monday (Sept. 5, 2011) from complications of colon cancer.

Bob was born May 25, 1942 to Dr. Robert and Dorothy (Stewart) Jones at Jersey City Medical Center, New Jersey. He moved with his family to Rochester when his father, an Army doctor, joined the Mayo Clinic in the 1950s. Bob graduated from John Marshall High School in 1960, attended Lake Forest College and the University of Minnesota, majoring in International Relations. During the summers of his college years, Bob held jobs ranging from working at a lodge high in the Colorado Rockies, to serving inner-city mothers and children on a hospital ship anchored in New York harbor.

During the Vietnam War, Bob served in the U.S. Army at the Presidio of San Francisco and at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. Following his discharge, he was asked to continue on the Embassy staff where he remained from 1966 to 1975, becoming known as the “institutional memory” of that era. During that time, he helped design and monitor for Vietnam what was, at the time, the world’s only comprehensive data processing system for reporting political, economic and security conditions at a nation’s “grass roots” level.

Bob fell in love with Vietnamese history and culture, learning to speak the language fluently and was often sought after by visiting diplomats and journalists who relied on him for information and insight into Vietnamese affairs.

Upon his return to Rochester, he was asked by the Bishop of the Diocese of Winona to establish a program under the auspices of Catholic Charities to coordinate the resettlement of the newly arriving refugees from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. For the following 15 years, he worked tirelessly to develop sponsorship opportunities and supportive programs for refugees arriving in the Diocese from around the world.

During his years as Resettlement Director, he was also active at the state level as founder and longtime Chair of the Minnesota Consortium of Refugee Agencies.
In 1991, Bob was called to Washington, DC, to receive the John McCarthy medal, the highest award bestowed annually by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops for service to the world’s refugees.

Bob also believed strongly in the need to empower refugees to develop and lead self-help programs and to plan and coordinate cultural events. To achieve that goal, he brought together refugees and Rochester community leaders to raise the necessary support and funding to found a new agency, the Inter-Cultural Mutual Assistance Association (IMAA). The IMAA has become over the years a national model, and in March 2011 the building was dedicated as the Robert Jones III building.

Bob was also active in civic affairs. He helped found the Rochester International Association (RIA) and regularly assisted with its annual Rochester World Festival. A civic highlight for Bob was his selection by then Rochester Mayor Chuck Hazama to be a member of a team of city leaders, which worked tirelessly to develop a presentation, which they took to Houston, Texas to compete for and to bring back to Rochester the much-coveted “All-American City” designation. He also served one year as Interim Director of Rochester’s newly emerging Habitat for Humanity Program.

From 1998 to 2008 he moved to Westminster, Ca. where he taught citizenship classes in the area of Orange County, California, known as “Little Saigon.” At St. Anselm’s Cross-Cultural Community Center, Bob developed and taught classes which graduated hundreds of new US citizens. He was widely and fondly known in the community as “Thay” (teacher) Bob. He returned to Rochester in 2008.

He was a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Rochester, the Institute of Vietnamese Studies and the Association for Asian Studies. He also served on the Boards of the National Association of Vietnamese-American Social Agencies and the Southeast Asian Archive at the University of California-Irvine.

His family would like to express their deepest appreciation to the Mayo Clinic doctors and nurses who cared for Bob during his illness and Lynn Nomann, RN, with Saint Jude Hospice in his final days.

He is survived by his daughter - Kieu -Oanh (John McInnis) of Madison, WI, his mother Dorothy of Wabasha, MN, his sister Sharon (Frank) Stewart of Goleta, CA, brother, Dr. Roger (Cheryl) Jones of Elko, NV and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his father and his sister Linda Brandolino.

A funeral service will be held at 5:00 P.M. on Friday (Sept. 9, 2011) at Christ United Methodist Church , 400 5th Ave. S.W. , in Rochester, with the Rev. Dr. Carol Hepokoski of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Rochester, officiating. Friends may call from 3 to 5:00 P.M. on Friday at the church. A private family burial will take place on Saturday at Riverside Cemetery in Wabasha. The family asks that memorials be made to IMMA, Minnesota Public Radio or Saint Jude Hospice, Rochester in lieu of flowers. Arrangements are with Griffin-Gray F.H, in Stewartville,Mn.