Waiting With Red-baited Breath

Little Saigon’s latest wave of anti-communist fervor spreads beyond Viet Weekly

Event organizer Trinh Hoi, a refugee lawyer and concert promoter—he happens to be the son-in-law of former South Vietnamese vice president Nguyen Cao Ky and a law-school friend of Van Thai Tran—says the protest reflected anger over his participation in a similar event in Australia earlier this year that also included performers from Vietnam. "People were not only discouraged from going [to the OC Pavilion], but were really blasted with bad names," he said. "They were calling people prostitutes, communist shits, really bad things. Most people, when they see that, they won't go inside."

Last week, Hoi wrote an editorial that aired on the BBC and appeared in the pages of Little Saigon's Nguoi Viet Daily News saying that while he didn't agree with everything Viet Weekly had written, the newspaper was being treated unfairly for exercising free speech. "We might not agree with Viet Weekly's views and how they approach things, but at the same time, it doesn't mean that we ought to kill them," he said. Since writing that editorial, Hoi added, he's been routinely labeled a communist traitor in the Vietnamese-American press.

Protesters have repeatedly picketed Orange County-based Lee Sandwiches—most recently on Aug. 19—because the chain's owner, Le Van Huong, met with Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet during his June visit to OC.

Calling for exile on Main Street. Photo by Kathleen Smith.
Calling for exile on Main Street. Photo by Kathleen Smith.

Another target is the Aug. 26 premiere of Saigon Love Story, Vietnam's first vaudevillian movie musical, at Costa Mesa's Pacific Amphitheater. In the past few weeks, right-wing websites have called for a protest of the screening because the film was made in Vietnam. The chatter apparently began when activists noticed a poster for the premiere that called it a "red carpet" event.

"This film has no political slant whatsoever," said director Ringo Le, 29, who grew up in San Jose. "It's about love. There's a very anti-Vietnam sentiment right now, and they're just using every scapegoat imaginable. It's becoming like a Salem witchhunt."

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