Interviewee: Alan Yee (AY)
Bonnie Wong: (BW)
8:20AM, Saturday 14 September 2013, Novotel Hotel in Hong Kong
I: Could you please state your full name, your date of birth and where you were born?
AY: My full name is Yee Shen-Eng Yee Leng Chau. I was born and bred in Hong Kong. I was born on January 12th, 1957. I was born in the countryside of Hong Kong. My father came from China, and my mother was from Penang in Malaysia. But actually they are Chinese, from Mainland China. After the World War, when the new Chinese Government took over, both of them came to Hong Kong. I have five members in my family and I am in the middle. I have an elder brother, and elder sister, myself, a younger sister and the youngest is my brother.
I: How does it feel like to be in the middle [of your family]? Do they always pick on you?
AY: It felt good. My elder brother always looked after me. He paid the bills when I was in secondary school and offered me food as well.
I: I [would like] to hear as much as I can about your experience with the boat people and how you came to know about the Vietnamese boat people situation in Hong Kong. Also, was there anything significant you remember and what did this whole experience in Hong Kong meant to you?
AY: I first [came to know] about the boat people when I was younger, as I always listened to the radio because of the war in Vietnam. That is how I knew about the Vietnamese boat people for the first time. And then in the late ’70s, I saw on TV a lot of boat people from Vietnam were coming to Hong Kong. By that time, I didn’t have much feeling about this. Because we didn’t have any experience [with the Vietnamese boat people] up to that point, [I] just thought it was the news. But eventually, the boat people kept on coming into Hong Kong. For example, we needed to find some place to provide them with food and shelter. I think it became a problem [for Hong Kong]. I feel very surprised, because boat people [travelled] in a very small boat from Vietnam. It was a long way to come to Hong Kong. I don’t know the exact distance [from Vietnam to Hong Kong], but in a small boat [like the ones used by the Vietnamese refugees] it would take about half a month; something like that.
I: At least half a month.
AY: Yes, it scared me in Hong Kong. By that time, I wondered what we could do in Hong Kong [for the Vietnamese boat people] and whether there was something we could do.
I: Did you continue to follow the news and get updated with the situation?
AY: Yes. For a long time, I would keep [up to date] with the news every day on TV and announcements on the Vietnamese boat people. Everyone who watched TV was concerned with the number of [Vietnamese] boat people coming to Hong Kong, and when it would stop [as well as] when improvements [to the numbers of arrivals] would happen. I am not speaking on behalf of all the Hong Kong people, but just as an ordinary man like [myself]. We didn’t think [it would] have an effect on our life, because we lived in a [comfortable] place. But we all wondered how they would survive in a small place [like Hong Kong]; that [was] my concern. I think the Hong Kong Government did a very good job [in the given situation].
I: Yes they did, especially with such a high number of the Vietnamese boat people coming to their shores. Did you feel like [the situation] was affecting the economy and financially affecting the way of life of the Hong Kong people because of [the cost] of handling the Vietnamese people?
AY: I don’t have the figures, officially, [of money spent by the Hong Kong] Government. But I don’t think it was a [great] problem. [This was] because in Hong Kong, by that time, the economy was booming. I don’t think it caused a big problem [to the Hong Kong people]. [One concern of the Hong Kong people might be] the security problem. [For example] if some boat people came out and [committed any] crime, what would the Hong Kong Government do? Besides that, I don’t think it affected the economy.
I: What did you think when you hear about the riots and fighting and conflicts amongst the Vietnamese people with the Government [with the refugees subsequently] burning down the camp?
AY: Because it was [occurring] in the camp, at that time it didn’t affect the ordinary life of the Hong Kong citizen. I don’t think it was a big problem. We didn’t see any crimes committed by the boat people at that time if they came out. Maybe [they happened], I don’t know. Actually we didn’t have much of a problem with them.
I: Because they are remote and located far away from society?
AY: Yes. But I know from TianTuen Mun, some boat people could work during the day time [which was improving the situation]. By that time, I think the Hong Kong Government had spoken [a lot] about the boat people situation with the United Nations. ByAt that time, it didn’t cause much of a problem. Maybe [this was because] the security [department of Hong Kong] had done a lot of things to protect the Hong Kong citizen.
I: [Speaks to Bonnie] It was a very challenging job to make sure that everybody was safe and to protect the Hong Kong people as well. You’re looking at one time, nearly 70,000 Vietnamese boat people in various camps. It was a very challenging job [to manage them all.
BW: It is not easy, in particular when at times we don’t understand why they were so disgruntled and why they should put up such resistance [towards us]. Some of the reasons they gave were beyond my imagination. For example, eventhey all wanted to go to [America] and if they were screened-in by European countries, they didn’t want to go to Europe at all; [and they were not interested in Europe. They would protest because they were screened into European countries.]
And if we had to put up with disturbances like that, it was quite a puzzling situation. Why should they be so disgruntled? They all wanted to go to [America]. If they were going to France, Britain, Germany [or] Sweden they would get very resistant. And they wouldn’t want to board the flight. And we would have to sort out these differences and that is where our work [would become] rather frustrating. Because we didn’t think that we should be handling such issues. We could understand if they were protesting about being confined or if the food wasn’t good, or things like that, relating to their daily life or their daily treatment [in the camps]. We could understand those [situations] better. But if they were [creating] disturbance for such reasons [like being sent to Europe], it was very puzzling.
I: Did it happen quite often?
BW: Initially, [it happened] in the early [times] when there were more interested countries in Europe to accept them. Of course towards the end of the period, there was hardly anyone screened in and there was very little hope [for the refugees], basically. But initially, when they were being screened in by European countries and there was more interest and more help coming in from [the] international [community] that was where we found difficulties. I am still puzzled as to why we should be doing something like this. To a certain extent I can understand – for example, the refugees wouldn’t know [much about] Sweden, the language etc. – and it would be a totally new life for themselves and their descendants. But, I still find it a little bit difficult to understand that [as a refugee] in finding refuge in a safer place, [Sweden or another European country] would still be better than being in a camp I would think. These were our thoughts and feelings at that time [when] we had to do a job like this. I couldn’t understand [the refugees’ response] and [my]I couldn’t understand [the refugees’ response] and my frustration arose at that type of thing.
I: What were some of the [refugees’] form of resistance?
BW: They wouldn’t move, they wouldn’t come out and they wouldn’t [leave the camps].
I: When is the time for them to leave [the camps]?
BW: If they were screened-in, they would be [allowed] to go out into an open camp to await flights. But they wouldn’t want to leave. And then we had to struggle and persuade them to get them out [of the camps].
I: That’s why it is so important to speak with people like you and Alan because each of you has a different experience of the Vietnamese boat people ‘saga’ at different periods of time. And this is the kind of [information] that would not come out in the news or any public records that I can see.
I [addresses Alan]: Did you and your family discuss the Vietnamese boat people situation at home?
AY: Not much. Actually, because it didn’t affect us a lot, because my wife is not … [interrupted]. Because, my. My thinking is that the boat people would eventually not stay in Hong Kong because Hong Kong is too small. So eventually we went to a European or foreign country so that we could stay for a short time. I didn’t discuss much [about the Vietnamese boat people] with my family. My wife didn’t understand. But for men like me, we watched TV every day to see what the movement [in the situation] is, what was happening and what was discussed on the news. We were concerned. But not every family in Hong Kong would have talked about this. But Hong Kong people were very concerned about the boat people, because of issues like safety, their future and what they [the refugees] would do in the future. I think many of the Hong Kong people would think like that.
I: Did you realise [imagine] this in the situation would last 25 years when [the influx] first started? I didn’t believe it either?
AY: You would only see the boats, the very small boats. The first time only a few boats came to Hong Kong. But suddenly, more and more boats were coming, and it raised our attention to watch what would happen in the future.
BW: I was appalled when I saw the conditions of the small boats; I felt so sorry for [them] for the babies. When you come to managing them, I would get quite discouraged. When they first got hot food, they wouldn’t even wait [in line]. [It was quite a scene to see them] all rushing up to snatch food. And then we would have worries about the women and children who didn’t have the strength to come forward to [snatch]get the food. And I would feel sorry [for them] because they would come in such conditions and wouldn’t even care for their own people. And then we would have to make sure that the women and children – especially the unaccompanied ones – would get their food. We also had problems with protecting young women and children; what we would call unaccompanied minors. We were quite worried about [them].
AY: The Hong Kong people were very sad about that. They wanted to give a hand to the boat people, but what could they do? Of course they tried to do something for the boat people. In our hearts, we felt that if we could do something [we would]. Madam Bonnie said that they were worried about the safety of the young women in the camps.
I: The Hong Kong people and the Government were very generous to the Vietnamese boat people, especially in the way that no boats were pushed back [into the ocean] or turned away. Because when that happened, we would have lost more lives [like what happened] in Malaysia and Thailand.
AY: How could you survive on board the boat? Did you have fresh water and food?
I: When we started, we had some very light porridge – just rice congee with salt. And then eventually it all ran out, and people started to die. So if we didn’t come to Indonesia soon, we would have lost more people because we had run out of food and water.
BW: We [heard] the news about the Malaysians and Indonesians towing the boats out into the ocean. I think in general, people in Hong Kong do not accept that [kind of behaviour]. I think that the impression I get is that [the Hong Kong people] are not happy with so many [refugees] coming [into Hong Kong]. But I don’t think many would support the policy of towing the boats out into the ocean. I think at one stage, they may say words like ‘we should tow [the boats] back out into the ocean’. But I don’t think they really mean [what they say] and that it would be accepted by the Hong Kong people in general. And another thing is, although a large amount of money was spent on the [refugees] by the Hong Kong Government, theoretically the United Nations (UN) would pay [the Hong Kong Government] back. Besides, in those days, there was very little – what was called – ‘social security’; or money being distributed by the Government to the people. The taxes were generally used to put up public utilities. So [in terms of] the immediate and instant effect on the people [of Hong Kong]… normal Government subsidies on the people weren’t reduced. The normal lives [of the Hong Kong people] were not affected. But they somehow sensed that if they continued in this way, then there would be an effect on the people of Hong Kong [in terms of] housing, finding them work, school etc. They realised that if they were all stuck here, there would be a problem. But as Alan says, it didn’t affect the daily life [of the Hong Kong people].
I: It is very intriguing for me that you are very supportive of this oral history project. I was wondering why you wanted to get involved in this [project] and what it means to you.
AY: I think human beings have to ‘offer their hands’ if [they are able to help]. For me, I come from a family where I worked hard. When I was young, I lived in the countryside. By that time (in the early 60’s), so many illegal immigrants from China came to cross the border from the hills, down to our village. And my father gave them food and offered to let them stay for a few days at our home. So I think this was the education given to me by my parents. And when somebody died, my father carried the dead body to the hills. This is how I learned at that time to help people [when I was able to]. I like to [be able to ‘give back’ when I can].
I: Do you think it is important to be able to recall this history of Hong Kong for future generations, [for them] to understand what happened in the past?
AY: Sure! We need history and to be able to talk to the second and third generations as to how Hong Kong has changed. [For example] what happened in Hong Kong’s history; this is very important. I’m fully supportive of this project when Madam Bonnie spoke to me [about it] and I asked what I could do [to help]. At the time I was thinking I could print a book [for you] because I’m a printer, I thought this would be fine. But this has changed, and this is fine, no problem. I would like to support [this project].
I: I was curious because most of us who are involved in this project have previously worked with the boat people or are boat people themselves, or have some direct experience or contact with them. It’s nice to know that other people who are not directly involved [with the Vietnamese boat people] have some interest.
AY: I’m glad to be able to do something in this project.
AY: I’m sure that [many of those] in the Hong Kong Government such as Madam Bonnie worked more [closely with the Vietnamese refugees] than I did. I have to salute [their efforts]. I can see there is a lot of history there. A lot of friends would talk to me about what they faced in the camps, and we are in a ‘different world’ in Hong Kong. At that time, we didn’t know what was happening [in the camps]. I’m glad to sit here and speak with you [in order] to learn more [about the issue of the Vietnamese boat people]. This morning I read your book and saw one million boat people are spread out all over the world. I think a few million [many] have died…
I: We lost at least 200,000 at sea. An estimated one out of three [Vietnamese boat people] died. So for every 2 people who survived, one died at sea.
I: Bonnie, when I come to know more about your operations here, I continue to be amazed at how everyone in the [Hong Kong] Government continued to poolpull their resources together and handled the situation for such a long time, in such a complicated fashion.
BW: Firstly, it is an international issue. And secondly, people in general do not trust the disciplinary services. If there are any disturbances, conflict, rioting or forced use, it is bound to be [perceived as] us ‘beating up’ people. And there would be a lot of media reporting on brutal beatings etc. And so we had to be very careful about these things. No one, including the general public of Hong Kong, would accept the brutal treatment of anybody. So the Government had to be very careful, as the [Vietnamese refugees] were under Government care. And the Government couldn’t stand the blame from international and local communities. First of all, Human Rights issues had to be safeguarded and have to be seen [as being carried out correctly]. During these operations, we had to get monitors in, including a Justice of Peace to monitor the situation. And that, of course, was not received very well or welcomed by people in the field. It [demonstrated] a simple lack of trust of our work, right? But it is something we had to accept, because the Government in general, couldn’t accept a criticism of brutal treatment. And we also couldn’t afford any failures in repatriations.
We couldn’t just say, ‘we cannot [board] these people onto flights’ for example. Basically, there is no alternative for us [in terms of making mistakes]. We tried a lot of things to limit criticism [against the Government]. We recruited people directly from the community into the camp, without any formal training. This was to avoid people saying we were treating [the Vietnamese refugees] like prisoners. And I said that I wished they were treated like prisoners. [This was because] in the treatment of prisoners, you know that they should have [access to] a bed, recreational areas and every right to these things, including work and exercise areas etc. However, all the things that we would consider ‘necessities’ in the treatment of people [prisoners] were not available [to the refugees] in the camps. But [treating the Vietnamese refugees] as life prisoners is very humiliating indeed, so in order to avoid this, we needed to recruit people directly – fresh from society – and then put them in the camps. So if they were never trained and had worked in a prison, how could you say that the Vietnamese refugees were treated like prisoners? They were temporary staff, known as ‘VM’ staff – not even regular, [permanent] staff. So we tried every effort to beat scepticism from the community, so as to not be seen as mistreating [the Vietnamese refugees].
I: I did see some articles about the Vietnamese boat people being mistreated by some of the [camp] officials. The number of incidents was very small, but was this in the initial stages [of the Vietnamese boat people situation]?
BW: No. Even in the initial stages, when there is a large movement in the camps and when resistance came, there would be some conflict. For example, where people would be forced onto the lorries and so on. And this would lead to allegations of assault and [the incident would be] reported as if we had assaulted them brutally. Basically, I think this is the criticism and stress that the staff faced. The staff just didn’t know what to do; whether they should [enforce] law and order or just let [the Vietnamese refugees] do whatever they liked. And the staff had a job to do, but they would be very apprehensive and they knew they were facing criticism [from the public and international community]. But I think that it is inevitable. Everywhere in the world, people cannot accept disciplinary force being applied. And there will [inevitably] be accusations of unnecessary [force being applied]. It’s very difficult. It’s also very disputable what is necessary and what is ‘too much’ [force being applied]. I don’t think anybody can judge, except the officer on duty [whether the force being applied is too much]. Of course, some [officers] would go too far and make sure the [refugees] were subdued. Others would be more lenient, but that is just a fact of life.
I: Was there any particular story or incident throughout the history of the Vietnamese boat people in Hong Kong that comes to mind?
AY: You are the first of the boat people I know – I don’t know many. Everything [I heard] came from the news, from TV. I do think that in a country like Vietnam, a rice-planting country, when it suddenly becomes a very tough country, I feel uncomfortable. Because we think Vietnam is a very nice, Asian country with a lot of food and rice. Thailand and Vietnam have grown a lot of wealth. There is some reason it is like this. For me, the boat people can have a better life [here in Hong Kong]. I do hope for this. If you ask me what has affected me or made me think about the boat people, it is because I grew up with boat people in Hong Kong. Because every day [I saw them on] the news and they became a part of my life. Of course, another part of my life is the handover of Hong Kong [to China]. So these two things are [big incidents] that are always on my mind.
BW: I think for the majority of people in Hong Kong, remembering the Vietnamese people would be [associated] with the riots. [This is] because for each repatriation, we had to initiate what we call, an ‘exercise’. [The] police and everybody else would be involved because we had to get them [the Vietnamese refugees] out. It was reported in the news, so [those are the incidents that are most likely to be reported]. Because of the concern of [the Hong Kong Officers] using undue force and how the refugees were being mistreated when they were being repatriated was widely reported in the news and media. So I think people will remember about the riots. Even [Alan] was telling me yesterday that he remembered how I went on TV to explain how things were [at the time], such as how many grenades were thrown and that type of thing.
BW: [In terms of] the daily arrivals, yes, they were reported daily. Today there might be 900, tomorrow there might be 300. It was just a routine [procedure]. I don’t think the number [of arrivals] made a large impact on the general public. But it made an impact on us [in terms of] accommodation and where we were going to house [the refugees]. But for the general public, another couple of hundred arriving [wouldn’t make a huge difference to the general populace of Hong Kong].
AY: Yes, I can see it in my mind. How Madam Bonnie was speaking to the media… but it all happened in the camp.
I: When you said grenades were thrown, what did you mean?
BW: It was tear gas [grenades].
I remember [reading about]one incident where something like 300 rounds of tear gas were discharged.
BW: That was in Whitehead [detention centre]. Whitehead had over 10,000 people. We, as camp operators do not like such large camps. We like small camps, where the staff can get to know the Vietnamese people being detained. And the people being detained would have the chance to get to know the staff as well. We place emphasis on this ‘human relationship’, as some sort of mutual understanding or mutual respect. Personally I am against having large crowds [of people] together [in the detention camps]. If any [incident] happened, it ignited emotions instantly. And then, instead of having to deal with a few hundred, you have 10,000 [refugees] to deal with. It is a completely different scale of handling things. But of course, at that time there was no alternative – you couldn’t find so many small camps. It was lucky that the Government could put up a place called High Island, and Whitehead would be able to house them [all the small camps] together. Of course putting up small camps would mean more demand on human resources.
AY: One thing I can say is that the Northern Vietnamese are different from the Southern Vietnamese people. The only concern for me at that time was that a lot of people would [give] a lot of trouble to the Southerners [those from the South of Vietnam]. The ‘Northerners’ are very strong and tough, the Southerners [aren’t]. Northern Vietnam attacked the South… these are my concerns.
BW: There are different values [between the North and South of Vietnam]. It is very important, when managing a group of – what we call – ‘foreign’ people. The problem is when they have different values. Our standard would be for some closed countries under tyrant rule – for example, treatment [of refugees] like this would be unacceptable to countries like Sweden where their Human Rights [standards] are very high. There are different expectations and values that caused a lot of problems to [the camp] management. [This is] because this is the standard that we accept and [the general public] know that we accept these basic standards. People in Hong Kong know what the living environment and sanitary conditions would be like [under] the minimum standards. If they fall well below the minimum accepted standards, [the general public of Hong Kong] wouldn’t accept [this treatment of the Vietnamese refugees]. So from each country, the so-called minimum standard differs. One standard may be already very good, but the other may be very appalling and unacceptable. That is basically the problem with managing people from different countries. It is like that all over the world.
I: What were some of the major differences that had you noticed between the Northern Vietnamese and the Southern Vietnamese?
BW: The Northern Vietnamese were more violent. They were less likely to reason and they ‘demanded’ things, [for example] stating that America would be the place they wanted to go to [for resettlement]. And they would consider that to be their ‘right’; to be non-negotiable. Whereas others from a more liberal society [the Southerners] would be more open to negotiation and willing to listen to what [the camp management] had to say. They would take a more ‘civilised’ approach.
AY: We only know that the Northern part [of Vietnam] is more … communist.
BW: They are communist. [The refugees] tried to differentiate themselves from those in Hong Kong and China. Basically, they [the Northern Vietnamese] tried to demand [their rights] and thought that whatever they wanted was their right [to have] and they could do whatever they liked; that it was their ‘right’. But we knew that it wasn’t their ‘right’; we would negotiate with them and try to convince others [through persuasion and negotiation]. It would make things very difficult for us and very frustrating, making the [refugees] very difficult to manage, because their values were very different [to ours].
AY: Were you able to distinguish [from their facial features] the differences between the Northern and Southern Vietnamese?
BW: Thirty years ago, you could easily distinguish between a ‘Hong Kong Chinese’ and ‘Chinese-Chinese’ person [someone originally from China]; [looking at] how they dress and how they behave. Especially in the early ‘70s, you could quite easily tell [which was which]; they behaved differently. Like with the Hai Phong people, if you asked them to manage and organise their own community they would do it quite well. But with the boat people who arrived later, it was a waste of time, if you know what I mean.
I: What do you think makes [the Northern Vietnamese] think that they have the ‘right’ to demand things?
BW: That is how they behave! I don’t know why they think that they have this right… anything less than that is not acceptable [to them]. That, I think, is the common trait of people [from Northern Vietnam]. They are deprived of freedom for so long and then they don’t understand what freedom is. Then they come to think that freedom means, ‘I can do whatever I like’, without respecting the freedom of others. I think this is the problem for most closed countries. To suddenly come to a free community where they can say what they like and do what they like, they have [discovered] that this is ‘freedom’ – to be able to do and say whatever I like [and] that others will have to ‘give’ me what I want. This is my own observation; that they don’t understand [the concept of] ‘freedom’.
I: That is a very interesting observation. It is probably the best explanation [of their behaviour] as well.
AY: But how can they do that, because if they move to some other country – not their hometown – [how will the other people in the country respond]?
BW: Because you have been in a free community, you will know the rules and respect the rights of others. But if you have been controlled all the time and you hear the word ‘freedom’ – freedom is just a concept to you. It’s not something you have [experienced] or enjoyed [yourself]. It’s just a word – ‘free’. So if you are free, then you have to test the extent of what your freedom allows you to do. This is like children, understanding freedom – you have to understand what that freedom allows you to do. So once you are no longer a child [and have grown up], that is how you can understand freedom. To them, freedom could be just a word. To people who are not free, they are not allowed to leave the country, or even their own community / district. They are there and they cannot even travel to another province. They are being restricted in their movements.
So to them, [they have no] freedom of religion; they are so restricted that they can’t even go to church. So ‘freedom’ is just a word to them. But when [their freedom] becomes something real to them, they [don’t know] how to use it. It’s like a two-year old when you give them some money. I remember my nephew, when I gave him some money to buy certain things. He gave all the money [away] and came back, [forgetting about the change]. He didn’t care about the change. [This is] because he has no concept of money [at his age]. All he knew was that the money could be exchanged for a drink. He doesn’t understand the value of money. What does he care if it costs $100 for a drink?
AY: I wonder, because the Vietnamese were previously ruled by the French, they should have educated the Vietnamese in a European-style?
I: A large part of the [Vietnamese] population was quite educated, affluent and had the influence of Western society. But that was a different generation. A lot of people from the North hadn’t had contact with the foreigners since 1954 when the country [was] divided.
BW: The fall of Saigon occurred about twenty years after Northern Vietnam was established. So theoretically speaking, Northern Vietnam was established under communist rule for twenty years – it was for almost a generation, where the old values were dying. The new values were coming in for the younger people.
I: So in the early days, around 1975-‘76, especially for those who came from the South, you could see the difference in values, intellectual-level and level of understanding. But later, because they had been isolated from the outside world, they had not been given a lot of information and their life had become very restricted.
BW: They had information, but they didn’t know what that was. They didn’t know how to exercise it.
BW: It was just like the Cultural Revolution in China. You were brought up learning nothing about the outside world. But the problem is, in learning nothing about the outside world, you won’t know [anything] about it! That is one thing… the Americans are very powerful. Every country behind the Iron Curtain knows about Coca Cola [laughs]. They all admire Coca Cola. They do not have Coca Cola, but they all know about it. So what do they do when they see [a Coca Cola bottle]? They want to drink it, because Coca Cola is the ‘thing’ to drink.
AY: So they learn this in school, through their education?
BW: You are told [in school] that this is no good. But on the other hand, you get other information about how great Coca Cola is. So everybody knows about Coca Cola; this is the change in China.
AY: It’s a big change. I’m wondering, in twenty years this generation has changed so quickly and they don’t have any history at all.
[Discusses Vietnamese propaganda on radio with Carina and Bonnie]
AY: Spoke in Vietnamese, ‘bat dau tu hom nay’. Those are the only words I know in Vietnamese and they impacted me a lot.
I: ‘Bat dau tu hom nay’ means ‘starting from today’. I remember there was an announcement in the media saying, ‘if you arrive in Hong Kong starting from today by boat, you will no longer be considered a refugee but you will be returned to Vietnam’.
BW: That was the height of the exodus / influx. We were so tired of the influx of refugees, and they were all coming in and expected to be treated as refugees. So we warned [the Vietnamese] that if they came [into Hong Kong], they would be locked up and screened and that sort of thing.
BW: Even nowadays when they are referring to the Vietnamese on the radio and comics etc., they will say ‘bat dau tu hom nay’.
I: I’m glad you brought it up, because it did come up in some of the literature [in my research]. But I never heard from someone who actually remembered the term.
BW: If you were there in Hong Kong during those days, all [the Hong Kong people] remember this term. And they all understand [what it means].