Monday, December 21, 2009

Vietnamese Hoa("Người Hoa")

Hoa refers to a minority in Vietnam consisting of persons considered to be ethnic Chinese (Han Chinese). They are often referred to as either Chinese Vietnamese, Sino-Vietnamese, or ethnic Chinese in/from Vietnam by the Vietnamese populace, Overseas Vietnamese, and other ethnic Chinese. Hoa is most probably derived from the Chinese word,pronounced in Mandarin as hua (lit. ‘beautiful’, ‘magnificent’,‘with culture’). Ancient China was called Hua Xia, abbreviated to Hua. The Vietnamese government's classification of the Hoa excludes two other groups of Chinese-speaking peoples, the San Diu ('mountain Chinese') and the Ngai.

According to the 1999 Vietnamese census, with 862,371 people (1.1% of the population), the Hoa are the 6th largest ethnic group in Vietnam.

The ancient Chinese had been migrated from the North(at that time the term, China is not used yet, which is a modern political term for nation identity). Most previous Chinese immigrants have successfully blended themselves into the general local population, the ancient natives of the place(mainly Mon-Khmer). Many of them, probably mostly men, had chosen to settle in places of where today's Vietnam's northern territories are. Most of them might have been married into Vietnamese local families(note: Vietnam is relatively new term politically for nation identity) and they never returned to their homeland. Over the years and many generations later they had been totally assimilated into the newly emerged Annamese society by having blended within the dominant new ethnic group later identified as "Kinh", or Vietnamese.

However many of the more recent ones from Guangdong (Canton), Fujian (Fukien), and other parts of China's southern provinces who had migrated to Vietnam later for the last past four hundred years especially since the fall of the Chinese Ming Dynasty might have still remained distinctively Chinese and have been identified as of several different Chinese ethnic groups, namely the "Minhhương" (descendants of the Ming's subjects), Chaozhou (Tcheochow), Cantonese, Hakka, Hainanese, and Fukienese. For a large majority of these later groups, many of them might also have already fully absorbed into Vietnamese society. Just ask a Vietnamese, chances are that three or four out of ten persons will be still able to tell you how they bear a Vietnamese version of their Chinese last names. They are called " Hoa".

Vietnamese ethnic policies

The political and cultural dominance of imperial China over the Vietnamese heartland in Tonkin, the ability of the Vietnamese people to integrate into and, in the longer run, also assimilate numerous Chinese immigrants,seems remarkable. This achievement by the attitude of almost all Vietnamese dynasties towards the ‘People of the North’, which in sum entailed: ‘assimilation of the immigrants and separation of the aliens’. The fact that China as the Middle Kingdom remained a model for Vietnam even after the latter had achieved full independence, by the late tenth century, may have made it easier to implement this paradigm.

Albeit temporary subjugation of Vietnam by the Ming rulers (1407-1427), after the final Chinese withdrawal the Vietnamese crown allowed all Chinese who preferred to stay equal rights as Vietnamese citizens, provided that they adopted the country’s customs. This also implied the encouragement of marriages with Vietnamese partners.‘The separation of the own [i.e.Vietnamese]population from foreigners [who refused to integrate] while at the same time integrating and assimilating those who wanted to stay in Vietnamese society, were always official policies of the state

The Vietnamese Lê dynasty used ethnic Chinese as well as Vietnamese to found settlements in the Cham territories of central Vietnam, which, in 1477 were incorporated into the Vietnamese realm. The recruitment of Chinese as settlers in former Cham and Khmer land seems to have been a characteristic feature of the Vietnamese Nam Tien(‘Movement to the South’). Ethnic Chinese had played a pivotal role in the cultivation of the Mekong delta since the seventeenth century. Thus by the end of the eighteenth century a mixed Vietnamese-Chinese society had emerged in this sparsely populated region, transforming a landscape dominated by dense mangrove forests into fertile agricultural land. Cochin China was able to particularly support the region around the capital Hué and the provinces further north with rice. Thus, even before the Chinese mass immigration to southern Vietnam in the period between 1880 and 1929, Chinese migrants made a significant contribution to the development of the Mekong delta.

The ethnic policies vis-à-vis the ethnic Chinese in the period following the end of World War II.

The impact of the political changes in China (Civil War,Communist Revolution) on the positionof the Hoa in Vietnamese politics, economy and society, The first president of the Republic of Vietnam, Ngô Dình Diêm,failed due to his neglect of social issues,and because of his corruption and repressive policies regarding national and religious minorities, such as the Khmer Krom in the Mekong delta. Diêm’s treatment of the Hoa was, however, relatively tolerant and ‘one of the most pragmatic,flexible and, in the end, successful variants’ of all political approaches towards religious and ethnic communities in the post-1954 period. When the first Vietnam War led to the 1954 exodus during which 1 million people fled from the North to South. The political position of the economically influential Hoa in post-colonial Vietnam always reflected the relations of respective Vietnamese governments with their powerful neighbor in the north.

Prior to 1975, Chinese in South Vietnam were concentrated in urban areas and largely engaged in commercial activities. In the late 1950s the government imposed a series of decrees that sought to weaken their economic predominance. These laws forced Chinese to take Vietnamese citizenship and prevented non-citizens from engaging in certain occupations. The Vietnamese language became required in Chinese high schools. In effect, however, the citizenship regulations actually provided the Chinese with greater access to the Vietnamese economy.

Vietnam War

Bolstered by US foreign aid during the war, the economic activities of the Chinese community thrived and expanded until the North's victory in 1975. Chinese in the North played a very different societal role to those in the South. Most lived in Quang Ninh province, bordering on China, and were mainly engaged in fishing, forestry and crafts. Those in the urban areas were primarily workers and technicians.

After Vietnam Unification
After the Vietnam War ended, it started the exodus of 2 million people between 1975-1992 diaspora that dispersed to countries all over the world. The massive exodus of ethnic Chinese from Vietnam to China in 1978 and to Southeast Asia by boat in 1979 seemed to the outside world explainable only in terms of racist policies toward an ethnic minority paralleling the Nazi policy toward the Jews. But Vietnamese policy toward the ethnic Chinese them- selves can be understood only in the context of the development of the Sino-Vietnamese conflict. While racism toward the Hoa in the form of resentment toward an unassimilated and privileged minority had long existed among ethnic Vietnamese, there had also been a long-established Communist Party policy of discouraging Vietnamese from anti-Chinese sentiments or actions, in contrast with non-Communist Vietnamese governments in the past. Communist Vietnam had always portrayed the Hoa as active participants in the anti-imperialist struggle, linking friendly relations between Hoa and Vietnamese with close cooperation between China and Vietnam.

One of the episode was the first major reform of Chinese schools in North Vietnam in 1970, aimed at eliminating those aspects of the curriculum which strengthened the sense of Hoa community — what Hanoi termed reactionary idealistic nationalism."

Before 1975 the northern Hoa were mainly rice farmers, fishermen, and coal miners, except for those residing in cities and provincial towns. In the South, the French colonizers had allowed the Cholon Hoa to be the trading middleman. Subsequently, they became dominant in commerce and manufacturing. According to an official source, at the end of 1974 the Hoa controlled more than 80% of the food, textile, chemical, metallurgy, engineering, and electrical industries, 100% of wholesale trade, more than 50% of retail trade, and 90% of export-import trade.

In mid-1975, when North and South Vietnam were unified, the combined Hoa communities of the North and South numbered approximately 1.3 million, and all but 200,000 resided in the South, most of them in the Saigon metropolitan area, especially in the Cholon district (Chinatown). Beginning in 1975, the Hoa bore the brunt of socialist transformation in the South.

1. An announcement on March 24 1975, outlawed all wholesale trade and large business activities, which forced around 30,000 businesses to close down overnight, followed up by another that banned all private trade. Further government policies forced former owners to become farmers in the countryside or join the armed forces and fight at the Vietnam-Cambodia border, and confiscated all old and foreign currencies, as well as any Vietnamese currency in excess of the US value of $250 for urban households and $150 by rural households. While such measures were targeted at all bourgeois elements, such measures hurt ethnic Hoa the hardest and resulted in the takeover of Hoa properties in and around major cities. Hoa communities offered widespread resistance and clashes left the streets of Cholon "full of corpses".

2. These measures, combined with external tensions stemming from Vietnam's dispute with Cambodia and China in 1978 and 1979 caused an exodus of as the majority of the Hoa, of whom more than 170,000 fled overland into the province of Guangxi, China, from the North and the remainder fled by boat from the South. China received a daily influx of 4-5,000 refugees, while Southeast Asian countries saw a wave of 5,000 boat people arriving at their shores each month. China sent unarmed ships to help evacuate the refugees, but encountered diplomatic problems as the Vietnamese government denied that the Hoa suffered persecution and later refused to issue exit permits after as many as 250,000 Hoa had applied for repatriation. In an attempt to stem the refugee flow, avert Vietnamese accusations that Beijing was coercing its citizens to emigrate, and encourage Vietnam to change its policies towards ethnic Hoa, China closed off its land border in 1978. This led to a jump in the number of boat people, with as many as 100,000 arriving in other countries by the end of 1978. However, the Vietnamese government by now not only encouraged the exodus, but took the opportunity to profit from it by imposing a price of five to ten taels of gold or an equivalent of US $1,500 to $3,000 per person wishing to leave the country. The Vietnamese military also forcibly drove the thousands of border refugees across the China-Vietnam land border, causing numerous border incidents and armed clashes, while blaming these movements on China by accusing them of using saboteurs to force Vietnamese citizens into China. This new influx brought the number of refugees in China to around 200,000

3. The size of the exodus increased during and after the war. The monthly number of boat people arriving in Southeast Asia increased to 11,000 during the first quarter of 1979, 28,000 by April, and 55,000 in June, while more than 90,000 fled by boat to China. In addition, the Vietnamese military also began expelling ethnic Hoa from Vietnam-occupied Kampuchea(South Vietnam Mekong Delta), leading to over 43,000 refugees of mostly Hoa descent fleeing overland to Thailand By now, Vietnam was openly confiscating the properties and extorting money from fleeing refugees. In April 1979 alone, Hoa outside of Vietnam had remitted a total of US $242 million (an amount equivalent to half the total value of Vietnam's 1978 exports) through Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh City to help their friends or family pay their way out of Vietnam. By June, money from refugees had replaced the coal industry as Vietnam's largest source of foreign exchange and was expected to reach as much as 3 billion in US dollars. By 1980, the refugee population in China reached 260,000, and the number of surviving boat people refugees in Southeast Asia reached 400,000. (An estimated 50% to 70% of boat people perished at sea.) By the end of 1980, the majority of the Hoa had fled from Vietnam. In addition to ethnic Hoa, an estimated 30,000 ethnic Vietnamese refugees fled to China.

Vietnam's approximately 1 million ethnic Chinese, constitute one of Vietnam's largest minority groups. Long important in the Vietnamese economy, Vietnamese of Chinese ancestry have been active in rice trading, milling, real estate, and banking in the south and shopkeeping, stevedoring, and mining in the north. Restrictions on economic activity following reunification in 1975 and the subsequent but unrelated general deterioration in Vietnamese-Chinese relations sent chills through the Chinese-Vietnamese community.

The relationship between China and Vietnam was strong during the Indochina Wars with France and during the Vietnam War, where China provide the main military support to Vietnam. Moreover most of the pioneer leaders have been educated and stayed in China during their revolutionary years. The Vietnamese - Chinese relationship deteriorated after Ho Chi Minh passed away, and the pro Chinese leaders lost their influence in the political struggle, a pro soviet group under Lê Duẩn(黎筍集團)took over the leadership, many pioneer leaders were taken out from the leadership core. This began the anti- Chinese campaign and aggression to the neighboring countries.

The relation between China and Vietnam also declined in this period, with Vietnam siding with the Soviet Union against China in the Chinese-Soviet split. Tensions peaked when Vietnam invaded Cambodia, an ally of China, to depose Pol Pot, resulting in a Chinese invasion of Vietnam in 1979. In 1978-79, some 450,000 ethnic Chinese left Vietnam by boat as refugees (many officially encouraged and assisted) or were expelled across the land border with China. However in recent years the government has performed an about turn and is encouraging overseas Hoa to return and invest.

Hoa Exodus: The Boat People
In the late 1970s the Socialist Republic of Vietnam took increasingly drastic action to transform the capitalist economy of the south into a socialist one, and Chinese were disproportionately affected, leading to protests by Chinese in Ho Chi Minh City in 1978 against discrimination in relation to property loss. The creation of, and threatened transfer of people to, New Economic Zones led to the first wave of 'boat people', primarily from the South, beginning in April 1978.

The short but bloody border war with China a year later resulted in a deliberate policy to encourage the departure of ethnic Chinese from Vietnam. In 1978-9, some 450,000 ethnic Chinese left Vietnam or were expelled across the land border with China. The decline of the Chinese population in Vietnam continued throughout the 1980s. The recent liberalization of the economy and renewed efforts to integrate Chinese into society has added new vitality to the small Chinese community. The number of ethnic Chinese leaving Vietnam by the mid-1990s has been negligible, due to a strict policy of not resettling Vietnamese refugees by Western governments, who regarded them as economic refugees.

1979 - Sino–Vietnamese War
The Sino–Vietnamese War (Vietnamese: Chiến tranh biên giới Việt-Trung/ 戰爭邊界越-中?), also known as the Third Indochina War, was a brief but bloody border war fought in 1979 between the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The PRC launched the offensive in response to Vietnam's invasion and occupation of Cambodia, which ended the reign of the PRC-backed Khmer Rouge, and Vietnamese raids in Chinese territory near the border. After a brief incursion into Northern Vietnam, PRC troops withdrew about a month later. Both sides claimed victory in the last of the Indochina Wars of the twentieth century; practically speaking, though, since Vietnamese troops remained in Cambodia until 1989 it can be said that the PRC failed to achieve their goal of dissuading Vietnam from involvement in Cambodia.

Most Hoa were emigrated or forced out during the 1979 crisis. The ethnic Chinese left the country in another exodus. Of the 270,000 arriving in China, nearly half were accommodated in Guangxi, where they were to rebuild life anew on farms, factories and fishing villages. Many become boat people and lost their lives in South China Sea, the more lucky one were settled in the 3rd countries. Many still tormented by the bad memories of their suffering during the escape, and do not want to talk about their escape in sea.

Economic Reform
The substantial improvement of these relations since the late 1980s and the economic reforms, following the Chinese pattern,have thus had positive impacts on the resurgence of the Hoa in southern Vietnam. Though the anti-Chinese excesses in the years in the aftermath of the reunification of Vietnam (1976) had left their mark on those Chinese who remained in Vietnam, the conditions for a successful and gradual process of integration and assimilation of the Hoa exist today.

With most of the Hoa Chinese gone, the new waive of Vietnamese Chinese are the Taiwanese, who invested in Vietnam.

Important City with Hoa Vietnamese

(i)Hai Phong

Hai Phong (海防市, Vietnamese: Hải Phòng, meaning "Coastal Defence") is the third most populous city in Vietnam. Hai Phong is located in the center of the Red River. It is approximately 100 kilometres from Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital, and serves as the primary seaport for the northern region of Vietnam.

(ii)Saigon & Cholon

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)is the largest city in Vietnam. It was once known as Prey Nokor, an important Khmer seaport prior to annexation by the Vietnamese in the 17th century. It was the capital of the French colony of Cochinchina and later of the independent state of South Vietnam from 1954 to 1975.

In 1976, Saigon merged with the surrounding province of Gia Định and was officially renamed Hồ Chí Minh City (although the name Sài Gòn—formally known as District 1—is still commonly used.)Ho Chi Minh City is home to a well-established ethnic Vietnamese population. Cholon, which is made up of District 5 and parts of Districts 6, 10 and 11, serves as its Chinatown. The majority of the population are ethnic Vietnamese (Kinh) at about 90%. Other ethnic minorities include Chinese (Hoa) with 8%, (the largest Chinese community in Vietnam) and other minorities (Khmer, Cham, Nung, Rhade) 2%.

堤岸 (越南文:Chợ Lớn, 英文: Cholon) 是胡志明市 (越南) 的地區。此地區是華人聚居區。在胡志明市的華人具有40多萬,主要住在堤岸地區。 堤岸地界範圍涵蓋胡志明市第5郡和第6郡。堤岸的越南文國語字為Chợ Lớn,其對應的越南文「chợ)」意為「市場」,(lớn)」意為「大」。「堤岸」是在越華人為其起的現代漢語名稱。

Current Issues
The overall situation for Hoa has improved dramatically, especially when compared to the repression, discrimination and loss of property that they experienced before the 1990s. Overall, Hoa Chinese appear to be benefiting from Vietnam's liberalization of the economy more than other minorities. Indeed, poverty among the Hoa since 1993 has not only decreased more than for any other ethnic minority, it is even lower than the poverty level for majority Kinh.

Vietnamese authorities still do not allow private schools teaching in Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese) to go beyond teaching the actual language. This results in some Hoa parents sending their children to these schools in order to preserve their language and culture rather than to Vietnamese-medium state schools.
(source: UNHCR,,463af2212,469f2de62,49749c7f8,0.html

The China- Vietnam relationship is the main factor in Vietnam's ethnic policy on Hoa people; before the unification of Vietnam, the relationship was strong and the sphere of political influence was only between Chinese communist and Kuomintang; but after unification the Vietnamese policy to control Hoa people has caused political tension with China as well as Hoa people, and the subsequent racial policy to expel Hoa people legally and illegally has caused further hardship to the minority, and the diaspora of Hoa people. This is a classical example of how unfair and biased political policy can adversely affect the human right of the people.

越軍的坦克於1975年4月30日開進了西貢,立即調轉槍口,對準了曾幫助過他們的中國人民和在越南的華僑弟兄姊妹,卑鄙無恥令人憤慨。無數越南華人的噩夢就開始了。 1975年5月1日,整個越南南方解放,越南抗美救國戰爭勝利,這一年也是越南現代歷史發生急劇轉折的一年,越南當局沒有致力於經濟建設,醫治戰爭創傷,而是控制老撾,出兵入侵柬埔寨,變本加厲地與中國為敵,立即開始大規模有組織、有計劃地反華排華。實際上1974年後越南北方的黎筍集團(Lê Duẩn)就開始排華,他們推行所謂“民族淨化”,全面施行越語教育。他們關閉華文學校,禁止華文報紙,解散華人社團,從而在全社會中引起了巨大的恐慌和經濟動盪。由於華人學校被關閉,大批華人子弟失學,如今許多中年越南華僑都僅有小學左右的文化程度,就是當年越南的那次排華造成的惡果,這是那一代人心中永遠的痛,華人的恥辱。

在排華浪潮中,在越南北方,制訂 “淨化邊境地區”的政策,從1977年初開始,把很早以前從中國遷居越南北部邊境的邊民成批地驅趕回中國,隨後,逐步發展到大規模地驅趕旅居在河內、海防和北方各地的華僑。以人口普查為名,強迫華僑入越南國籍,強征一些華僑入伍,對堅持保留中國國籍的華僑,剝奪就業和升學的機會,無故解職,甚至取消戶口和口糧,對要歸國的華僑,則強迫填寫“志願回國書”,乘機掠奪財物,在華僑回國、出境途中,設置關卡,層層敲詐勒索,甚至毆打和殺害華僑。越南當局以“打擊買辦資產”為名,把大部分華僑資本收歸國有。市面上物價飛漲,通貨膨脹,鬧的民不聊生,接著以“取締偽幣,兌換新幣”為幌子,以500:1的比值強迫華人更換新幣,規定期限一天申報,而且還設置上限,限額兌換,無論你有多少錢,家有幾口人,每家每戶只允許兌換200元越南盾。超額部分要全部存入銀行,以等候審查,以公開的方式掠奪華人財產。這區區小錢如何能養家糊口?於是華人只有變賣家產實物,以換取微薄收入,近此一項,就令許多華人商家破產倒閉。

緊接著,越南當局又採取更加殘酷的手段“清查華人資產” 。1978年3月越南當局發佈“對資本主義工商業進行社會主義改造”的文告,打著“肅清私人資本主義”的旗號,對華僑僅存的中小工商業,甚至小商販來了一次大掠奪。同年3月20日晚,越南大批軍人和政府人員,包圍整個堤岸市區,肆無忌憚地進入華僑的工廠、商店、庫房和住宅,以登記財產為藉口,翻箱倒櫃,掘地挖牆,搜查金銀財寶及其它資財,每個華人商家都受到了超乎尋常的嚴格搜查,將各種商品物料固定資產及往來帳目,現金存款都一一登記下來,然後封存沒收。華人一夜之間失掉了自己全部的產業,被迫停止了一切經濟活動。誰敢反抗或企圖藏匿轉移財產都會被抓入獄。1978年3月23日,越南正式宣佈廢除私有制,然後從華人手裏奪回對經濟的控制權。一夜之間,所有華人華僑的財產被洗劫一空。4月23日,越南宣佈合併南北貨幣。這項舉措實際上相當於進一步沒收華僑和華人所有財產。這是華人在一個月內遭受到的第二次打擊。



越南當局一方面用高壓手段剝奪華人財產製造恐怖氣氛逼迫在越華人出逃,另一方面又在華人出逃時收取高額費用,讓早已一貧如洗的華人留下“買路錢” ,扒下華人身上的“最後一件襯衫”。從海路逃離越南的難僑人數最多,這部分人的遭遇更為悲慘。在南方,由於沒有陸路之便,華人投奔怒海。越南當局對乘船離開越南的難僑敲骨吸髓,令人髮指。僅在堤岸地區就有七十多個機關和大批人員從事輸出難民的組織工作,他們向每名出境的成年難民索取十二兩黃金,小孩索取四到捌兩黃金作為“出口人頭稅”,並與國際偷渡集團勾結,公開搜刮黃金等財物,乘機大發橫財,在政府的授意下,富有的華人被迫繳納多達數百萬美元的出境稅,很多難僑、難民,為了逃離越南,被搞的傾家蕩產。



Related articles:

1. What Makes Vietnamese So Chinese?,
2. Vietnam - Chinese Cultural Impact,
3. World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Vietnam : Chinese (Hoa)(2008), UNHCR,,463af2212,469f2de62,49749c7f8,0.html
4. The Vietnamese boat people, 1954 and 1975-1992(2006),by Nghia M. Vo, published by McFarland, 2006.

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