|Incontrovertible evidence: Dang Cong Ngu (right) shows visitors the Chinese Qing Dynasty map, which proves Vietnamese sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Archipelago. — VNA/VNS Photo Nguyen Khoi
by Hoang Trung Hieu
Dang Cong Ngu had once bowed to commemorate the Vietnamese soldiers who had died during the sea battle in the Hoang Sa (Paracels) archipelago between Vietnamese and Chinese forces in January 1974.
Now, at the age of 60, Ngu (former chairman of Hoang Sa Islands District) bowed again to apologise to the people as he believed he has not fulfilled his responsibility as chairman of the islands district.
Some people address Ngu as "Mr Hoang Sa", but he stated that he did not dare to called by that nickname.
A reason is that he was chairman of the district for 1,835 days, but he still feels sad as "Hoang Sa still has not returned to its motherland".
On January 19, 1974, China used force to illegally occupy Viet Nam's Hoang Sa Islands (the Paracels).
Hoang Sa Islands District belonged to the Quang Nam-Da Nang Province.
On January 1, 1997, Da Nang became a city managed by the government, and Hoang Sa Islands District was put under the management of Da Nang administration. The district's head office is located at 132 Yen Bai Street of Hai Chau District.
Da Nang City appointed Ngu, director of the city's Department of Home Affairs, as chairman of Hoang Sa Islands District on May 24, 2009.
During his tenure, Ngu collected many materials and historical evidence that confirm Viet Nam's sovereignty over its sea and islands, and he met people who had worked and lived on the Paracels and published the Ky yeu Hoang Sa (Hoang Sa Yearbook) issue on January 2012.
In the spring of 2013, people attending the exhibition "The materials relating to Viet Nam's sovereignty over Hoang Sa" at the Da Nang Museum saw Ngu bow to the veterans of Hoang Sa naval battle who had fought the Chinese invading fleet 39 years ago. This patriotic act has since been acknowledged nationwide.
Da Nang appoints new chairman for Hoang Sa
The first chairman of the Hoang Sa District People's Committee Dang Cong Ngu has retired, putting a significant task of reclaiming the territorial sovereignty on the shoulders of his successor.
Da Nang City People's Committee appointed Vo Cong Chanh, former deputy director of the city's Department of Home Affairs, as chairman of Hoang Sa District to replace Ngu in May 5.
Chanh, 43 years old, announced that "as the chairman of Hoang Sa Island District, I promise to take up the works that my predecessor Dang Cong Ngu had accomplished and continue to fulfill the responsibilities and tasks assigned."
One year later, on January 19, 2014, at the exhibition "Hoang Sa-Truong Sa belong to Viet Nam", the district chairman bowed to apologise to the people as he believed that he could not do much for the struggle to reclaim Hoang Sa for Viet Nam.
During the five years as chairman of Hoang Sa Islands District, Ngu spent days and nights in collecting legal documents and evidence to prove Vietnamese sovereignty over its seas and islands. He attended most of the exhibitions and talked about the Truong Sa (Spratlys) and Hoang Sa Islands District to affirm with the younger generation this truth: "Hoang Sa belongs to Viet Nam".
Knowing about his work, many people donated related materials to the island district authorities, to enrich the historical resources that prove Viet Nam's sea and island sovereignty.
Ngu also regularly appeared on the media to respond to China's violation of Viet Nam's territorial sovereignty, hindering Vietnamese fishermen from working on their traditional fishing areas.
On July 2012, hearing news that Dr Mai Ngoc Hong in Ha Noi had published an ancient geographical map of the Chinese Qing dynasty that depicts the southern end of China is Hainnan Island, Ngu noted: "Viet Nam needs to popularise these materials and historical evidence for the Chinese people to know. The sovereignty of the Paracels and Spratlys must be brought to international scale to be solved peacefully."
Many people who used to live in Hoang Sa Islands, after meeting with Ngu, have turned their feelings into action.
Veteran Pham Khoi from Da Nang drew a Hoang Sa map manually to present to the authorities of the Islands District.
Witness Nguyen Van Cuc, who was working in Hoang Sa and directly witnessed the Chinese invasion in 1974, said: "The next generation must understand the history of Hoang Sa, especially the hardships and difficulties that our forefathers have faced in the islands since the time of Nguyen Lords (1600-1802). We must reclaim our sovereignty at all costs."
The Ky yeu Hoang Sa issue, for which Ngu was the chief editor, was released recently. The book records hundreds of documents, exhibits and autographed writings of witnesses who confirm that Hoang Sa belongs to Viet Nam.
The book is considered the best available evidence of Viet Nam's sovereignty over Hoang Sa, because along with legal and historical evidences, it also records stories of people who had lived in Hoang Sa and had witnessed Chinese forces attacking the archipelago.
Ngu noted that the book was not an accomplishment of his own or the accomplishment of the island district authorities, but "This was a collective accomplishment of all people who joined hands for the cause to reclaim Hoang Sa."
"Feeling anxious that a part of our territory is still in the Chinese hands has urged all our people to be determined to struggle for the territorial integrity of Viet Nam," he stated. "Let us show our patriotism and responsibility to Hoang Sa, a sacred land of Viet Nam."
During the last months of his tenure, Ngu visited the family of Nguy Van Tha, commander of the corvette Nhat Tao (HQ-10), who died when the ship was shot by Chinese warships in Hoang Sa in 1974, and the family of Nguyen Thanh Tri, who was seriously injured during the naval battle and died on the way to the shore.
The district chairman bowed quietly and burned incense to honour the dead and told their families: "Hoang Sa District People's Committee has always recognised the merit and the sacrifice of the soldiers during the naval battle to defend our territory."
The chairman of Da Nang Fisheries Association, Nguyen Truoc, who had proposed the establishment of Hoang Sa Fisheries Association, noted: "Ngu always is concerned and attached to his position. Though he has retired, people like him will always feel anxious and will continue to collaborate for reclaiming Hoang Sa."
Before retiring, Ngu was gathering the witnesses who used to live in Hoang Sa. The district's authorities also collected information about Vietnamese soldiers who had sacrificed for Hoang Sa.
"Especially, during the 1960s, there were many soldiers and hydrometeorology staff working on the islands," he noted.
Ngu added that soldiers in the Nguyen dynasty (1802-1945) who had implemented Viet Nam's sovereignty on the islands and whose names have been given to the islands such as Pham Quang Anh and Pham Huu Nhat should be recognised.
"That is why the collection of materials and historical documents is urgent," he pointed out.
Ngu has also initiated a project to build Hoang Sa Museum covering 700 square metres on Hoang Sa Street in Da Nang City. This will be a place to introduce to the public photos and artifacts about those islands belonging to Viet Nam but are being illegally occupied by China.
"The project is important to reinforce beliefs about the inseparable territory of Viet Nam."
"The struggle to protect territorial sovereignty still has many hardships, and we hope young people will continue the mission to reclaim Hoang Sa," Ngu added. — VNS