Ho Chi Minh City -- formerly known as Saigon -- has undergone many changes since it was the administrative centre for south Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh City -- formerly known as Saigon -- has undergone many changes since it was the administrative centre for south Vietnam. After the fall of the Saigon government it had to adapt to the integration of the country under the government in Hanoi. And that process continues. For those in the Chinese quarter of the city, adaptation has not been easy.
SYNOPSIS: Cholon is the Chinese quarter, once a bustling commercial centre providing for a largely western market of servicemen and prosperous administrators. The new administration saw it as a centre for black markets and dubious enterprises.
Illegal trading has been halted. The authorities say that until March, 1978, the Chinese traders in this district had considerable influence over the trade in food-stuffs over a large part of the country. That also has ended. The authorities moved to halt what they saw as the undesirable influence of the Chinese on commercial life, and thousand of Chinese left and became 'boat people'.
Squalor and poor living conditions tend to be common in the Chinese quarter. Many face periods of re-education under the new government. Others sometimes sleep on the pavements. Vietnam maintains that the Chinese government in Peking incited many ethnic Chinese living in Vietnam to leave. But Peking says they were expelled.
Cholon was once a thriving entertainment centre, but now the Chinese living there are encouraged to take part in small-scale industry. These workers are making buckets in a co-operative workshop. Unskilled members of the community are given opportunities to make contributions to production.
In this school in Cholon, children are learning Chinese. This has evidently not been discouraged and suggests to outside observers that the Chinese culture is expected to continue in Vietnam despite the large number of Chinese who have left. The number of boat people has declined since Vietnam promised to stem the flow and arrested about four thousand people accused of trafficking in Vietnam's ethnic Chinese.