Santa Ana could discourage visits from Vietnamese officials

Posted on November 21, 2012


The City Council unanimously voted to ask staff to prepare a resolution, similar to one adopted in 2004 by Westminster, aimed at discouraging official visits from communist Vietnam.

Members of Orange County’s Vietnamese community packed Santa Ana council chambers to show their support for a resolution that would seek to discourage official visits from communist Vietnam. (RON GONZALES, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER)

SANTA ANA – Draping themselves in the colors and flag revered as symbols of freedom among the immigrants of Little Saigon, Santa Ana council members unanimously supported the idea of a resolution aimed at discouraging official visits to the city from communist Vietnam.

The seven-member council on Monday directed staff to prepare a resolution modeled on one approved by Westminster in 2004, seeking notice of official visits to allow time for police to prepare.

Council chambers were packed with Vietnamese Americans, many of them holding aloft the Stars and Stripes and the yellow-and-red flag that represented South Vietnam.

At a council meeting that at times resembled a political rally, a stream of speakers urged the council to adopt the resolution. At one point in the meeting, speakers presented the council with the yellow-and-red banner.

And once the council was ready to vote, Mayor Miguel Pulido, who brought the proposal to the council with Councilwoman Claudia Alvarez, asked staff to record the vote with a lighted tally board.

“Yeah,” shouted members of the cheering, clapping audience. Declaring the moment historic, the mayor called for a recess so that members of the audience could pose for photos with the council.

Kenneth Nguyen, a city parks commissioner who serves as the city’s ambassador to the Vietnamese community, said before the vote that never before in his eight years service on the parks board has he made a request of the City Council. He said that because Santa Ana is home to county, state and federal offices, it has been visited by representatives of the government of Vietnam.

“We do not want them to go around the city of Santa Ana to remind us of the terrible images of torture, human rights violations, religious abuses and no freedom in Vietnam,” he said. Like other speakers, he urged the council to adopt the measure “to let the Vietnamese government know that they are not welcome here.”

Lan Quoc Nguyen, a Garden Grove Unified trustee, said he worked with city officials in Garden Grove and Westminster in adopting resolutions seeking to discourage government and trade delegations from visiting those cities, and said that the measures worked. He told the council that he didn’t recall any delegations to either city since the measures’ passage. Citing mass demonstrations in Little Saigon in 1999 when a video store owner displayed a flag of communist Vietnam and a picture of Ho Chi Minh, Westminster’s resolution indicates that those responsible for official visits could be held liable for the cost of providing police for them.

“It would not only save the taxpayers money to provide extra security for those delegations,” Nguyen said in support of the proposed resolution, “but it also speaks volumes and makes a political statement to the Vietnamese government, that if you continue to violate the human rights of the people of Vietnam or deny them basic rights, you are not welcome here in our city.”

Pulido, noting that Little Saigon had its roots in Santa Ana, said the city should have joined Westminster and Garden Grove when they adopted their resolutions. He said that both cities should renew their resolutions, which expired in 2009, and that other cities should follow suit.

Council members Sal Tinajero, David Benavides and Vincent F. Sarmiento, while declaring their solidarity with Vietnamese Americans, criticized the mayor for failing to notify or invite them to a pre-election press conference at which he and Alvarez announced they would bring the resolution proposal to the council. They also criticized the role of city staff in staging the media event for the mayor while failing to support similar requests from them.

“We are going to support this resolution, and we are also going to exercise democracy here,” said Tinajero, who has called a council majority that opposed the mayor’s re-election this month part of a “Santa Ana spring.”

“If I made a mistake, I apologize for that, but I don’t apologize for doing the right thing, which is supporting the Vietnamese community,” Pulido said.

OC Register