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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 I thought.
In 1979, the number of refugee reached its peek after UNHCR acknowledged for 600 thousands refugees to leave Vietnam legally from the humane stand point.

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 Kong.
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 sounds ironical.

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 attitude.

May 2008

Today's piece
" Portrait " Hue, Vietnam 2004

1 For the mainland via. Chung King Mansion vol.1 Migrant workers in Bore airport vol.2

fumikatz osada photographie