Are you able to tell us apart?
A refugee with a sad history,
Who rebuilt their life from a poor start,
And the communist that’s much wealthy,
Who emigrated in a move so smart.
It’s too bad that we all look the same,
“Asian” is the tag we can claim!
My maternal grandfather’s family escaped communism in Chaozhou (Teochew) – mainland China and settled in Trang Bang, Tay Ninh, in Vietnam. Grandfather worked as a farmer and after surviving a colonial French military massacre aimed at villagers whom they believed were the anti-French-colonist fighters, he moved his family to Saigon and opened a bakery.
Grandfather died at the age of 49 from lung cancer. He didn’t know that years after his death, his children faced communism for the first time in South Vietnam. However I believe he would not be surprised to learn that his offspring and their children would follow in his footsteps and escape from communism in Vietnam.
The painful past often came back to trouble me. It was the ten years my father, a Lieutenant Colonel of the old Saigon regime, languished in labour camps. Many of his colleagues died in there. It was the fearful 15-year time bracing ourselves for when our house and money were forfeited and we were sent to the new economic zones like what they’d done to the families of my father’s colleagues and the bourgeoisie. The memories of my four-year attempt to escape Vietnam, of my friends and boat passengers being shot dead or imprisoned, robbed of money and jewellery and raped, became alive in front of my eyes. The encounter with raped victims of Thai pirates who attacked refugee boats were still so vivid. The loss of my highschool friends on their boat journeys, the stories of cannibalism on those month-long drifted refugee boats still horrified me. It was the moment I was banned from entering University because of my father, the refusal to let my family emigrate to the US in 1985 and the time my house was confiscated when the family emigrated to Australia.
In 2012, I attended Chinese New Year celebration at China Town, in Sydney. At the end of the Twilight Parade, a whole Primary School from mainland China was marching followed by a convertible car carrying the Sydney Mayor and a mainland Chinese Mayor with wide grins on their faces. Everyone seemed happy!
Yet I felt overwhelmed by the prosperity and sheer number of mainland Chinese at that event. It haunted me with a vision that among those mainland Chinese people, there are those whose patriotism fed by the Chinese Communist Party and that they would one day heavily populate and become the powerful economic giants in Australia. They then take over and turn this country, where I was taking refuge from communism, into a communist one. It seemed that what my grandfather had tried to run from would finally catch up with his descendants.
My days as a happy refugee had long ended. These days I could see the expansion of wealthy Vietnamese communist officials in my now homeland. They sent their children to study in Australia and their children eventually became Australian permanent residents. Their children work in the Australian Government while they maintain political power and connection to Vietnam. Some communist officials later emigrated. They compete with the Vietnamese-Australians at auction for houses. They inundate shopping centres with their businesses. They drive BMWs, Audis,…
These days I live and work with the successors of the communist officials of my country and sometimes have no option but to shop at businesses established by them.