Vietnamese community not celebrating home country’s appearance in festival

Posted on July 27, 2012


Mark van Man Hai Trieu, of Vancouver’s Free Vietnam Association, says his community is against the promotion of the Communist-run fireworks team.
Photograph by: Mark Van Manen, PNG , Vancouver Sun

The Communist-run fireworks team from Vietnam shouldn’t count on much support from Vancouver’s Vietnamese community at the Honda Celebration of Light Saturday.

Team Da Nang’s performance in English Bay, which kicks off the annual fireworks competition, will be the group’s first show outside Vietnam’s borders in its 20-year history, but Hai Trieu of Vancouver’s Free Vietnam Association said most local Vietnamese oppose the team’s participation in the festival.

“The Vietnamese in Canada are victims of the Communist regime in Vietnam so they are not happy to see them in Canada,” said the 70-year-old.

Vancouver’s population of about 21,000 Vietnamese Canadians is made up largely of first-and second-generation “boat people” – refugees who travelled in boats to flee the long civil war between Communist North Vietnam and United States-backed South Vietnam in the late 1970s. Many refugees settled on Vancouver’s east side, moving into the Kensington-Cedar Cottage and Renfrew-Collingwood neighbourhoods.

Vietnam became a unified Communist state in 1975, and its political situation remains volatile. The country is accused of suppressing political dissent and religious freedoms, and there are ongoing movements within its borders and overseas for democratic reforms. In Vancouver, many Vietnamese are anti-communist and denounce the country’s human rights violations.

“I think the Canadian government should do something like promote freedom and democracy in Vietnam, rather than ship [its government teams] out for sports and fireworks,” said Trieu, a former president of the Vietnam Community Association of Vancouver.

Government-backed Team Da Nang was invited to participate in the 22-year-old fireworks festival by producer Andrea Dowd-Dever and her team.

“We were looking to have a country that hasn’t competed previously in the fireworks,” said Dowd-Dever, who also asked newcomer Brazil to join the festival. “It was something innovative and interesting for our group to have them in Vancouver for the first time.” The producer explained she focused on the performance instead of politics when shortlisting countries for the event. “It’s based on the artistic merits of the countries and the interests of the public in Vancouver,” she said.

The Vietnamese team arrived in Vancouver Tuesday and has been pre-paring for its Saturday debut. Before the 10 p.m. show, local Vietnamese musical groups will take the stage at Sunset Beach as part of the festival’s cultural programming.

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Vancouver Sun