Little Saigon activists tell USC to take down Vietnam flag

March 27, 2008

Little Saigon activists tell USC to take down Vietnam flag

University officials say the flag of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam outside a campus building conforms to state and United Nations standards; activists say they are ready to launch a protest if it is not removed

The Orange County Register

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WESTMINSTER Activists from Little Saigon say they are putting the University of Southern California on notice over a Socialist Republic of Vietnam flag that flies on campus.


Flags at USC
Should USC remove or replace the official flag of Vietnam with the red and yellow flag of the expatriate community in California?
Remove the flag
Replace it
Leave it alone

Three activists – Hung Nguyen, An Son Tran and Tung X. Nguyen – approached an employee of the University Relations department on campus last week to make an official request that the school remove what is perceived as the communist flag by Vietnamese Americans or replace it with the red and yellow former South Vietnamese flag.

“The red and yellow flag is the official flag of the Vietnamese American community,” Hung Nguyen said. “The university has hundreds if not thousands of students from our community and they should honor our sentiments about the flag.”

But USC officials don’t plan to remove or replace the flag, said university spokesman James Grant.

USC is among the nation’s most diverse campuses and has thousands of international students attending, Grant said. So far, no student has complained about this particular flag, he said.

“The flags have been in our main building for a long time,” he said. “They were made to conform to state and United Nations standards. We see no need to take them down.”

The activists approached Irvine Valley College last month with a similar request. The college took down its entire exhibit of miniature flags from 144 countries after Westminster Councilman Andy Quach and Garden Grove Councilwoman Dina Nguyen and the activists objected to the presence of the communist flag in the exhibit.

Hung Nguyen said he and others intend to visit all California’s campuses and urge them to remove the communist flag.

The Union of Vietnamese Student Associations, based in Garden Grove, also sent out a letter to USC two weeks ago after a Vietnamese American student there told them about the flag, said Bao Mai, a senior member of the student union.

“We have a good community of Vietnamese students, a few hundred, in USC,” he said. “We don’t want to see a large-scale protest happen there. We want to resolve the issue before that.”

But the students union would certainly join in a protest if it happens because USC has a Vietnamese Student Association on campus and is a member of the union, Mai said.

Hung Nguyen said community members from Little Saigon will attempt to have a discussion with top USC officials to make them see why the local Vietnamese American community is extremely sensitive to the issue.

The rapidly growing Little Saigon community is primarily composed of refugees who fled Vietnam in the ’70s and ’80s after the communist takeover in that country in 1975.

“Our first step is to give them the information,” he said. “The second step is to have a discussion between our Vietnamese elected officials and university officials to see if they will take down the communist flag. Our last resort will be to protest the university’s approach to this issue.”

Quach said he has not been approached by Nguyen to talk to university officials.

“It is of course at the discretion of the university, but I don’t think the university understands the political and emotional implications of their decision,” he said.

Quach said he might send them a video tape of the 1999 protest of a Little Saigon video store owner who displayed a large banner of Ho Chi Minh outside his store. Thousands thronged outside the store in protest.

“The video will show them how strongly anti-communist this community is and how strongly we feel about it,” Quach said.

Grant said the university respects the community’s sentiments about their flag.

“They do have their right to express their feeling and opinions,” he said. “But I don’t think we did anything wrong by flying that flag. It is Vietnam’s official flag.”

Contact the writer: 714-445-6685 or


A maintenance worker passes by the Vietnam flag, top center, that hangs high with other national flags at the von KleinSmid Center for International & Public Affairs at USC.


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