Sunday, December 9, 2012

Nguyen Dieu Huong Remembers Vietnam

Miss Nguyen Dieu Huong volunteered at Chimawan Camp in Hong Kong in the early 1990s to serve as one of my translators. One day, while waiting with me at the dock for the boat that carried me back to Hong Kong, she began crying. She told me she had translated so many stories for others for me and that not once had I asked how she came to be held in Chimawan. So I turned my tape recorder on, again, and asked her that question. This is the rough transcription of the conversation.

Nguyen Dieu Huong.



Before 1954, my father was trained to be a French official. My mother came from a wealthy family. In 1954 the country was ruled by the communists. My father was sent to a concentration camp for one year. My mother's family was classified as an upper class and had the wealth taken away. After a year of concentration camp my father faked his background and entered college. After a long period of hardship, my father received a degree from the Communist government. In that time he served as a teacher for the Giao Thong University.
In 1968 because my father associated with a few intellectuals. These writers wrote against the policy and the beliefs of the communists. A few of them were arrested by the communists. The communist government in Hanoi started to investigate the identity of those people associated with the writers. When the communist government discovered that before 1954 my father was studying to be an official for the French government they fired my father immediately. They suspected that my father was a double agent for the French who was left behind to spread propaganda. My father was arrested and put in prison at Mai Siu. After six months my father was released under probation of the communist government.
After reuniting with the family my father attempted to find a job many times but he was refused. He then became very discouraged. To support his family, my father and some of his Chinese friends started a rubber factory. The business became a success. My family became famous and wealthy in Hanoi.
In 1973, the government confiscated money from the family. Just because we were rich the Communist confiscated 35 ounces of gold and 656,000 dong, arrested my parents to Hoa Lo. Two of my elder sisters were expelled from school. All of the wealth was confiscated, my parents were arrested, my youngest brother was only two months old. The five of us had to survive through a long stretch of time. I myself was only seven years old, and I did not understand at the time the cruelty of the Communist government. In my heart and my mind I started to question: Why the communists took away the parents when the children were innocent and defenseless. Why did they let us live lonely and in hardship. My sisters and I had to carry our two month old begging for milk. Due to these reasons I began to hate the communists. While growing up I realized how cruel the communist government treated my family. Eight months later the people's court tried my parents. At the trial, my mother was declared to be free, out of generosity and kindness of the government so she could raise her children. But the question is, where is their generosity and kindness when my sister and I were left to fend for ourselves? For my father, because he cannot explain clearly how he got the money that they confiscated, so they found him guilty of running illegal and unlawful business. They decided to make an example of him. He was sentenced to ll years of imprisonment in Cao Cai, Yen Bai.
My mother was released under probation. All of her freedom was denied. Once in a while she was called in for questioning about her daily life. My two oldest sisters since they were expelled from school sought jobs at many places but were refused because of the background of the family and because their father was in prison. Because of that my mother and two sisters had to serve hard labor a few times in a year.
In 1973 I started school. After four years I finished elementary school and was transferred to junior high. I passed the junior high entrance examination at considerable high score but was denied entrance because my father was in jail. Because I was still young I still wanted to continue my education that's why my mother and I were begging for admittance to some other school. Because we had connections and money for bribery, I was admitted to the 6th grade at Hong Ha.
In 1976 my sister Nguyen Thi Dieu Ninh got married to a Chinese man. In 1978, the Vietnamese government deported the Chinese people back to China. My sister's family was among those to be deported(on the list). Because of the present situation(father), my sister's family couldn't leave the country. Remaining in the country, they had to live restrictions, threats, my sisters family had to flee to Saigon.
In 1977 since my sister Nguyen Cam Thuy couldn't find a job, she was called up to serve hard labor often. Seeing this, my other bribed officials for my sister to work at a research for construction material. After a few months, the higher officials found out the background and so they fired her again.
In 1978 the government in Hanoi declared against the wealthy families. My family was in the list to be audited. After the audit, they confiscated a lot of our belongings. My fathers was still in prison and seeing his family living in hardship, threats and no future. All the bad things were waiting for him by the time he finished his sentence. My parents started thinking of moving the family to a different place so they could live a happy and peaceful life without the restriction of the government. In 1979, my mother bought at house at 120/19 Phat Diem -- Quan I, Saigon. Because my mother was still on probation, my mother and two of my younger sister and brother stayed in Hanoi waiting for my father to come home. My sister, Nguyen Cam Thuy and I left for Saigon. Because of our connection, I continued my education at Tran Hung Dao. My sister faked her identity so she could get a job at Intermix Import/Export Corporation in SAIGON.
Even though I was young and SAIGON and Hanoi were reunited, after talking to those who lived in Saigon before the fall of Saigon, I discovered that the people had freedom and people's rights(bill of rights). Even though I was not born in freedom, but after I was witness and influenced by those cruel actions of the communists, and my comparison between the two government. I started to realize that the communist policy was unfair and cruel.
August 1980, my father was released from prison. November 1980 my sister went back to Hanoi to visit my parents.
December 8, 1980, the communists arrested and searched my family. Because their freedom was threatened all the framed, he rebelled the warrant and went into hiding. My mother had a broken leg and was taken to Sa Lim near Hanoi. The House at 30 Hang Can was searched for almost a month.
In the afternoon of December 8, my sister Nguyen Thi Cam Thuy was arrested. Tan Son Nhut Airport right after her plane landed from Hanoi.
On that same day I was at school. Lt. Col. Nguyen Ngoc Hoi and some other officials from Hanoi came to my school to demand my expulsion and escorted me back to 120/19 Phat Diem. to search the house. That house was searched for the next two weeks. At night, they locked the house and would not let me in so they could continue the search the next day. Wandering on the street without a house I lived in fear and desperation to see that my family Once again was in prison. Even worse I cannot continue my education and every step I took there would always be a policeman following me. After a long period of searching the police took all the belongings and kicked me out of the house and waited for my trial. My sister, Ninh, took me into her home at 175 Tran Quoc Thao to raise me.
Mid January 1981 my sister Thuy was transferred from Saigon prison to prison in Hao Lo in Hanoi.
My father, after hiding in Hanoi, was wanted by the government through Vietnam.
December 8, 1980, my mother was arrested and jailed at Sa Lim. Her health was poor, her leg in a cast, and she was deeply worried Because her children had no home to live in, lived in hardship and were treated unfair and cruelly. Every day they would interrogate her. After a short period of time my mother contracted tuberculosis. During that time, some of the top government officials such as Pham Hung, Thu Truong Bo Noi Vu, Tran Quyet, Duong Thong, often came to SA Lim to see my mother to try to get her to talk, they offered to treat the children better and then let her go if she would tell them where she hid the money or her wealth. If she donated all of her wealth to the government they would release her. Because her health was poor and Because of the love for the children, my mother agree to tell where the wealth was hidden. Hoping that the government will keep its promise of releasing her. The promise was just a lie and she had fallen into their trap. Right after they took 81 diamonds, and some gold, they did not release her as they had promised. Immediately t her case they arrested her again and transferred her case to Vien Kiem Soat(National Security) to be tried. They called her case number 730.
Newspapers in Hanoi like Nhan Dan, Hanoi Moi, Cong An, Noi Bo Nganh Cong An have written articles about case 730. Now they still display the wealth of my family (at Gang Vo.)
March 4 at 175 Than Quoc Thao, Saigon, my brother in law and a few of his family were arrested. I was also arrested Because there was a warrant for our arrest and they deported us out of Saigon immediately. Because I was still a minor, my family and I fought back violently, resisted, but they still arrested and jailed me at the police station Phuong 17 - Quan III, Saigon until
March 15, 1981. My brother-in-law, some of his family and I were transferred to prison in Hoa Lo, Hanoi.
On March 16, 1981 I was released. My younger brother and sister and I lived in hardship, hopeless.
In April 1981, my sister Nguyen Thi Cam Thuy was released.
In March 1981, there was a warrant for my sister Nguyen Thi Cam Thuy arrest. Because she was very frightened of the government, she fled to Lao. Over there, she married a Laotian name Thoong Tha Vy Phaeng Dy and changed her name to Soll Hki Da Phaeng Dy. She and her husband lived in Lao.
From the day I was deported from Saigon, even though I was young, my right and freedom were gone. I had no right to leave Hanoi. After the day my sister escape to Lao, the police watched me even more carefully. I was often called in for questionings at 49 Than Binh Trong, speculate my parents' friends, the whereabouts of my father and if he had contacted me. Day after day, my sister and I had to work as a salesperson to support ourselves while my mother was in prison.
September 1981 beginning of a new school year. I tried to be admitted to a public school but they refused Because of my background. Because I could not enter a public school I had to go to a special vocational school, Bo Tuc Van Hoa.(study and work)
January 13, 1982, my mother was temporarily released Because her health was so poor to wait for her trial and on probation. In a life without freedom, people's right, the government cruelty of the communists in Vietnam make my family see no future. Therefore the summer of 1982 my brother in law helped my younger sister and I to come to the South so we can find a way to escape from Vietnam. My mother was tightly scrutinized so she cannot join us. Near the end of July 1982, my sisters, her family and I escaped by boat from Hai Son, Ba Ria. Both times were unsuccessful. Fortunately, we were not arrested. The third attempt at Ba Ria we were arrested for over two weeks. With the help of my brother in laws family we were released after officials were bribed.
We had no more money to try again to escape. My sister and I went back home to Hanoi. I reentered the school Bo Tuc Van Hoa to continue studying.
February 2, 1983, the Supreme People's Court brought my mother to trial. even though my mother had given her wealth to the government she was accused of illegally running a business. The case 730 was among the 3 cases of example in Hanoi in 1983. My mom was sentenced to six years in prison and fine 500,000 dong and the court held the two houses as collateral at 30 Huang Khanh, Hanoi and 120/19 Phat Dien, SAIGON. to make sure that we obey the court's decision. My family appealed.
October 1983 The Toa Phuc Tham Court retried the case. Because my mother was too ill, the doctor's association forced the court to reduce her sentence to four years and the two houses. Because she was too ill, they let her live at home for one year to recover on probation.
Since the day my father hid we did not hear anything from him. December 1983 the Supreme People's Court brought my father case to trial without his presence. They accused my father for being in rebellion against the government and a traitor. They sentenced him to ten years and if he is caught they will add the fact that he was a fugitive in hiding.
After my parent's trial, I realized that there was just cruel action of the communist government. Seeing that my life had no future and would always be threatened, I have to leave Vietnam any way that I can. At the end of December 1983 I went on a boat at Quang Ninh. after a few days of sea turbulence and strong winds, my black ill fate, the boat was blown back to Vietnam. I was arrested on January 2 at Quang Yen and sent to prison until January 4, 1984. I was transferred to Quang Ning. Those days in jail were very hard which increased my hatred of the communist government.
July 1, 1984, I was released with the condition that I go through two years of reeducation(brainwashing). My freedom was taken away and now my ideals were also threatened. Because I was still a minor, I reapplied at Bo Tuc School to continue my education hoping the school would ease my hardship.
Near October 1984 the court many times called up my family to pay to pay for the fine. They threatened to take the two houses and send us to a new concentration camp if we didn't pay the 500,000 fine. Because we don't have the money my mother and I asked the government to let us sell the house at Phat Dien so we Khanh have the money to pay the fine. The court agreed to let us sell the house.
Beginning in November 1984, my mother went to Saigon but when she got there the house at Phat Diem was taken by head of the police department, Bui Sy Chi. My mother requested Bui Sy Chi to give the house back. To answer that request my mother was missing a few days later. My family then was worried to death. After a period of time searching, my brother asked a private investigator to find my mother. They discovered that my mother was held against her will at 1159 Than Huong Dao, Saigon Police Station. The warrant was handwritten by Trinh Than Thiep, head of the National Security Department. Knowing that my sister came to the police station to see my mother, they denied the accusations that they had her.
In Hanoi, I went to court to ask the photocopy of the permit to allow my mother to sell the house and also notified them that our mother was held by Trinh Than Thiep. The court will intervene on my mother's behalf. They also gave me some document so I Khanh send it to Saigon so my brother in law and sister Khanh prove that the court did not signed the arrest warrant. A half month later, my mother was kidnaped. I received news from my sister in Lao . The Vietnamese government assigned a group of policemen to go to Lao and take her back to Vietnam. My sister and her family fled to a refugee camp in Thailand in order to escape from the authority of Vietnam.
After the Lao incident, in mid December the police legally send notice to my family to tell us they have my mother. At the same time they received approval from court to arrest my mother.
After all those incidents, I was very upset and began to find out the true reason behind my mother's arrest. After a period of time, I found that Because Chi wanted my house at 120/19, he asked Trinh Thanh Hiep to kidnaped my mother and asked the court to sign the warrant to arrest her Because the house was under her name. They also asked high ranking officials to send the police to Laos to arrest my sister.
Since I know the truth, I am very angered and started writing protest letters and send everywhere hoping that one of the people from the government with some sympathy left would understand the unfairness of my family but I received no reply to my letter. After a short period of time, the police department sent a letter to my school forbidding them to accept me as a student any more so they Khanh follow my actions easier.
Frustrated about the cruelty of the C government which forced us to live in hardship and lonely without my parents. After I was expelled from school I went directly to court. I asked to see a judge so I Khanh tell him about my situation. But they refused to help Because if is not under their jurisdiction. Frustrated with their action I yelled out loud to the public. Let them know the injustice and unfairness of the government and asked them to realize that they have no freedom and our human right s were taken away. The police arrested me with the charge of public disorderly and against the government. I was jailed at Hoa Lo in Hanoi until May 11, 1985. I was rel3eased under the sponsorship of my best friend who married a foreigner.
Returning to live with my younger sister, I was still on probation. All her freedom was stripped away. besides that, we had to live on a very tight budget. Hoping to leave, Vietnam, I started studying English. In September 1985 my mother was transferred from Saigon to Lam San, Thanh Hoa.
Beginning in 1986, I turned to the age where I have to serve hard labor. the police in the city often called me to serve hard labor. Summer 1986, Hanoi prepared for a new policy called Hanoi, open its door to the West, by pushing people to study English. The Foreign Language School. They recruited students without any special requirements by passing an entrance exam. Even though I was mistreated by the government, I wanted to show support to this program in exchange for my freedom. I decided to take the entrance exam and passed the test beyond the acceptance score. I was refused acceptance, however, Because of my background. I hated the government Because no matter how hard I tried to have a better future, the communists always prevented me from doing it.
IN 1987 Because I could not find a job I was restricted even more, the money inflated, more corruption, and without money to bribe officials I was given a very hard time. The more I understand about the government the more I hate them. I realized that freedom and human rights do not exist as long as the communist rule. Because of my belief I understand that to have freedom human rights cannot be accomplished without a fight. Knowing some of the artists who were my father's friend, I attended some of the meetings in which they discussed the free world. the stories behind the Communists.
In October 1987 my mother finished her sentence and was released but my family was threatened to transfer to a new concentration area Because we still ow the government 500,000 dong. Worried about losing the house Because we could not pay the fine, my mother and I appealed to the court about the house in Saigon. But all our appeals were futile. the question is are there any other free countries that have this kind of law. The Court demanded us to pay the fine but why left those people who took our property illegally alone. Is that due to his power.
Near the end of 1987 my father was captured at Rach Gia o the way to flee from VN. At the same time, the artists that I know were also captured. After they were arrested, I was often called p for questioning about the secret association, my beliefs, the connections between my father and I during his hiding. There was never a moment that I lived freely. I was also threatened.
Beginning in 1988 I got a job at a state run store in Tan Tien. But the police often called me in for questioning. On March 17, 1988, I received a letter that forced me to serve hard labor. Knowing that my freedom was taken away and the cruel action was on my now, knowing that the hardship labor places were just a prison. This labor will kill me eventually like a prison. My family and I decided that I should first go into hiding and then flee from Vietnam in any way I Khanh to avoid the Communist. I left home to live with my friends while hiding I received news from my family that the police were looking for me. On June 23, 1988, I tot a board a boat and left Vietnam in tears and hatred of the Cs Because they had broken my family and my life. The more I think about it, the more I had them. Unfortunately, I came to Hong Kong after the HK government passed a new policy that classified the me as an economic instead of a political refugee.