A proposal to make the city of Irvine, CA and the Vietnamese city of Nha Trang “friendship cities” drew an explosive response from the Vietnamese community in and around Irvine, local news agencies report. More than 180,000 Vietnamese live in Irvine and surrounding cities–the largest Vietnamese community outside of Vietnam–and many of the immigrants are war refugees who fled the Communist country.
The Irvine City Council was inundated with protesters waving the yellow-and-flag of South Vietnam after Democrat Councilman Larry Agran proposed the friendly relations, which prompted Agran to withdraw the proposal on Monday. One protester shouted “Down with communists!” into a bullhorn; another cried, “Shame on you, Larry Agran!” according to reporting by Adam Elmahrek of the Voice of Orange County.
The GOP council majority, comprised of Mayor Steven Choi and council members Jeff Lalloway and Christina Shea, decided to trash the proposal, which also included making friendship city pacts with Karachi, Pakistan, and Baoji, China. The ostensible reason given was that the proposal didn’t use the proper bureaucratic channels.
According to the Voice of Orange County, Len Quoc Nguyen, a Garden Grove school board trustee, said to Agran, “Nothing could have galvanized the Vietnamese community more than what you did.” Clerk-Recorder Hugh Nguyen, a child when he escaped Vietnam, said his mother and brother were held in a forced labor camp, and added he has “horrible memories.” County Supervisor Janet Nguyen said Nha Trang committed “blanket human rights violations ” and added, “Shame on you, Mr. Agran, for not thinking twice.”
A few Pakistanis walked out of the council chambers because Choi commented that Karachi gave aid to terrorists. One, Mohammed Khan, argued that the Taliban was comprised of “damn Arabs” who are “making a mess around the whole world,” Elmahrek reports.
Agran defended his proposal by saying it came from local Vietnamese who wanted to see their history as “part and parcel of the fabric of our city.” He said Irvine Chamber of Commerce President Talia Hart reassured him that local Vietnamese would not be upset. But Choi said Hart texted him that Agran never approached her about Nha Trang, Elmahrek reports.