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1. My Childhood and Youth in Saigon

Chapter 1

My Childhood and Youth in Saigon

在西贡的童年和少年时代

My family background
我的家庭背景

My Chinese name is Zhou Hui Xian. I was born in the city of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) of South Vietnam. My parents were Chinese from the southern Chinese province of Guang­dong. They moved from Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong, to South Vietnam during the Japanese invasion of China. At that time they thought that they would stay temporarily in Vietnam for a few years, and that once the war was over they can re­turn to Guangzhou. But soon afterwards, Vietnam too was captured by the Japanese, which made it very difficult for the people in Vietnam to make a living. By the time the war was over, my parents were impoverished, and couldn’t afford the ship fare to go back to China. They were stranded in South Vietnam, yet they held on to the hope that one day, after saving enough money, they could go back home.

我名叫周慧贤,出生在越南南方的西贡市(即胡志明市)。我父母是中国广东省人,在日本侵略中国时他们从广州逃难到越南南方。当时他们以为只是在越南暂住数年,一旦战争结束后就可以返回广州去。但是不久越南也被日本侵占,人民谋生非常困难。到抗战胜利后,他们已经一贫如洗,没钱买船票回国,所以就滞留在越南。但他们还是盼望着有一天筹够船资,就可以扬帆归国。

But shortly after the war of resistance against the Japanese had been won, the war of liberation in China got under way. The political situation in China changed rapidly, and within just a few years, the Nationalist government had moved to Taiwan, where­as the government of the People’s Republic of China was established in Beijing. Vietnam was also divided, into North Vietnam and South Vietnam. South Vietnam and the People’s Republic of China were opposed to each other, and there were no diplomatic relations between them. The people of these two coun­tries were not allowed to commun­icate with one another, so my parents lost contact with their family members in the Chinese city of Guangzhou.

抗战胜利后不久,解放战争就开始了。政治局势迅速变化,不过几年的时间,国民党政府迁移到台湾,中华人民共和国政府在北京成立。而越南也分裂为南、北两国。中华人民共和国和越南南方政府处在互相敌对的不同阵营中,两国之间没有邦交来往,两国人民不能通讯。所以我父母和中国广州的亲友从此失去联系。

After Vietnam was divided into North and South Vietnam in 1954, the South Vietnamese govern­ment realized that the population of South Vietnam was smaller than that of North Vietnam. If in the future a referendum is held for the whole of Vietnam on a political decision, South Vietnam would certainly lose. So they came up with the idea of forcing all the Chinese in South Vietnam to give up their Chinese citizenship and take up Vietnamese citizenship. Many wealthy Chinese left South Vietnam; some went back to Hong Kong, some to Taiwan. But my parents were so poor that they couldn’t leave South Vietnam, and had to stay there. The method by which the South Vietnamese govern­ment forced the Chinese to take up Vietnamese citizenship was very simple: just change their place of birth from China to Vietnam, and issue them Vietnamese IDs. In one flash the Chinese in South Vietnam became Vietnamese born in Vietnam. My parents were angry about this, and resolutely held on to their Chinese passports. Even though the passports had no more legal value, they were the only proof of their Chinese identity, and were priceless to them for that reason.

1954年越南分裂为南、北两国之后,南越政府计算南方的人口不及北方的人口多。如果将来全越南要公民复决投票来作出政治决定,南越政府肯定会落败。他们就打起华侨的主意,他们强迫华侨转化为越南国籍。当时很多富有的华侨都纷纷离开,有些返回香港,有些迁居台湾。我父母很穷,他们走不