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.

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