Boat people headed for Hong Kong
In 1980s, I often heard the word "Boat people" in the news. The
boat people means the refugees who drift to the certain country with junk
boat. In those days, many Vietnamese refugee's boats got to the south western
part of Japan.
Meanwhile, in the booming economy, how was the reaction of the Japanese
media to them ? It's something like this as I remember. "Troublesome
people come to Japan with old boat"
During my stay in Vietnam, I talked to many people. And I noticed there
are so many people who used to be the boat people. And in their stories,
the name which I often heard was "Hong Kong" Does it mean that
highly percentage of the ex-refugees headed for Hong Kong.?
However, the end of each story was quite various. Some people got a job
in Hong Kong while the others were refused even getting into there. So
why the people who once lived in Hong Kong had to returned to Vietnam?
That's my question.
After the Vietnam War, in 1975, Vietnam changed to socialism. At the same
time, the movement of refugee began especially in southern part of Vietnam.
The people who were accustomed to capitalism might be had some anxiety
for socialism. The history of the Vietnamese refugee was much older than
In 1979, the number of refugee reached its peek after UNHCR acknowledged
for 600 thousands refugees to leave Vietnam legally from the humane stand
On the host country side, in 1980, Britain signed on the agreement about
the refugee protection. And Hong Kong became "The primary port"
for the refugee acceptance. Many refugee camps were also built. The key
word which I often heard from the Vietnamese people "Hong Kong"
links to the story now.
However in the history of boat people, their motivation for the leaving
Vietnam was getting change. In another words, the boat people changed from
political refugees to job seekers. The huge number of job seeking immigrants
gave a severe blow to the Hong Kong economy.
In 1988, Hong Kong government started the screening. The people who were
not qualified were all sent back to Vietnam. There were no insurance for
entering Hong Kong any more. However the boat people still headed for Hong
Hong Kong was back to China in 1997. And next year, the policy of the primary
port for refugees was withdrew. That was the end of the boat people history.
The total number of refugee whom Hong Kong had accepted reached to 200
thousands after all. May be that's the reason why I often heard about the
experience during just couple of week stay in Vietnam.
Vietnam has been changed dramatically. In 1986, they started "new
market system". Since then, Vietnam experienced some instability of
economic growth. But now it looks going well.
On the other hand, the fact that a strong support of the economic growth
owes to abundant money sending from Vietnamese emigrant in another country
The people who were sent back to Vietnam, they had much more dramatical
and severe experience in their life than which I did. Nevertheless, they
lived so buoyantly. What I saw in their eyes through the finder was neither
glittering ambition nor disappointment to the future. It's this buoyant
attitude. And I'm pretty sure that tough spirit exists behind their light
" Portrait " Hue, Vietnam 2004
For the mainland via. Chung King Mansion vol.1 Migrant workers in Bore airport vol.2