refugee flow


Hoa refers to a minority in Vietnam consisting of persons considered to be ethnic Chinese. They are often referred to as either Chinese Vietnamese, Vietnamese Chinese, Sino-Vietnamese, or ethnic Chinese in/from Vietnam by the Vietnamese populace, Overseas Vietnamese, and other ethnic Chinese. The Vietnamese government's classification of the Hoa excludes two other groups of Chinese-speaking peoples, the San Diu ('mountain Chinese') and the Ngai.

According to the 1999 Vietnamese census, with 1.1% of the population, the Hoa are the 6th-largest ethnic group in Vietnam.


The people who escaped from Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) China to Vietnam declared themselves as the Minh-huong (; pinyin: Míngxiāng) which means the people of the Ming Dynasty. The Hoa are descended from early settlers from the Guangdong province who arrived in Vietnam from the 18th to 20th centuries. The final group of mainland China migrants came during the 1940s. A large proportion of Hoa who are living outside of Vietnam speak Cantonese as their mother tongue, albeit in a Vietnamese accent. The second largest group of Hoa tend to speak Teochew (Chaozhou), but may also speak Cantonese as a lingua franca, again usually in a Vietnamese accent. The younger generation of Hoa in Vietnam tends to speak both Vietnamese and Cantonese.

The intermarriage between the Hoa and the majority Kinh ethnic groups is the highest compared to other minorities in Vietnam.

They are predominantly urban dwellers. A few Hoa live in small settlements in the northern highlands near the Chinese frontier, where they are also known as ngai. In 1955, North Vietnam and China agreed that the Hoa should be integrated gradually into Vietnamese society and should have Vietnamese citizenship conferred on them.


Before 1975 the northern Hoa were mainly rice farmers, fishermen, and coal miners, except for those residing in cities and provincial towns. In the South, the French colonizers had allowed the Cholon Hoa to be the trading middleman. Subsequently, they became dominant in commerce and manufacturing. According to an official source, at the end of 1974 the Hoa controlled more than 80 % of the food, textile, chemical, metallurgy, engineering, and electrical industries, 100 % of wholesale trade, more than 50 % of retail trade, and 90 % of export-import trade. Dominance over the economy enabled the Hoa to "manipulate prices" of rice and other scarce goods. This particular source further observed that the Hoa community constituted "a state within a state," inasmuch as they had built "a closed world based on blood relations, strict internal discipline, and a network of sects, each with its own chief, to avoid the indigenous administration's direct interference." It was noted by Hanoi in 1983 that as many as 60 % of "the former bourgeoisie" of the south were of Hoa origin.

Nowaday, due to these efforts, the Hoa take a small part in the economic of Vietnam.



As of 2006, the Hoa became the largest ethnic minority in Vietnam, with figures of 2.3 million.

In mid-1975, when North and South Vietnam were unified, the combined Hoa communities of the North and South numbered approximately 1.3 million, and all but 200,000 resided in the South, most of them in the Saigon metropolitan area, especially in the Cholon district (Chinatown). Beginning in 1975, the Hoa bore the brunt of socialist transformation in the South.

An announcement on March 24 outlawed all wholesale trade and large business activities, which forced around 30,000 businesses to close down overnight, followed up by another that banned all private trade. Further government policies forced former owners to become farmers in the countryside or join the armed forces and fight at the Vietnam-Cambodia border, and confiscated all old and foreign currencies, as well as any Vietnamese currency in excess of the US value of $250 for urban households and $150 by rural households. While such measures were targeted at all bourgeois elements, such measures hurt ethnic Hoa the hardest and resulted in the takeover of Hoa properties in and around major cities. Hoa communities offered widespread resistance and clashes left the streets of Cholon "full of corpses".

These measures, combined with external tensions stemming from Vietnam's dispute with Cambodia and China in 1978 and 1979 caused an exodus of as the majority of the Hoa, of whom more than 170,000 fled overland into the province of Guangxi, China, from the North and the remainder fled by boat from the South. China received a daily influx of 4-5,000 refugees, while Southeast Asian countries saw a wave of 5,000 boat people arriving at their shores each month. China sent unarmed ships to help evacuate the refugees, but encountered diplomatic problems as the Vietnamese government denied that the Hoa suffered persecution and later refused to issue exit permits after as many as 250,000 Hoa had applied for repatriation. In an attempt to stem the refugee flow, avert Vietnamese accusations that Beijing was coercing its citizens to emigrate, and encourage Vietnam to change its policies towards ethnic Hoa, China closed off its land border in 1978. This led to a jump in the number of boat people, with as many as 100,000 arriving in other countries by the end of 1978. However, the Vietnamese government by now not only encouraged the exodus, but took the opportunity to profit from it by imposing a price of five to ten taels of gold or an equivalent of US $1,500 to $3,000 per person wishing to leave the country. The Vietnamese military also forcibly drove the thousands of border refugees across the China-Vietnam land border, causing numerous border incidents and armed clashes, while blaming these movements on China by accusing them of using saboteurs to force Vietnamese citizens into China. This new influx brought the number of refugees in China to around 200,000.

The size of the exodus increased during and after the war. The monthly number of boat people arriving in Southeast Asia increased to 11,000 during the first quarter of 1979, 28,000 by April, and 55,000 in June, while more than 90,000 fled by boat to China. In addition, the Vietnamese military also began expelling ethnic Hoa from Vietnam-occupied Kampuchea, leading to over 43,000 refugees of mostly Hoa descent fleeing overland to Thailand By now, Vietnam was openly confiscating the properties and extorting money from fleeing refugees. In April 1979 alone, Hoa outside of Vietnam had remitted a total of US $242 million (an amount equivalent to half the total value of Vietnam's 1978 exports) through Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh City to help their friends or family pay their way out of Vietnam. By June, money from refugees had replaced the coal industry as Vietnam's largest source of foreign exchange and was expected to reach as much as 3 billion in US dollars. By 1980, the refugee population in China reached 260,000, and the number of surviving boat people refugees in Southeast Asia reached 400,000. (An estimated 50% to 70% of boat people perished at sea.) By the end of 1980, the majority of the Hoa had fled from Vietnam. In addition to ethnic Hoa, an estimated 30,000 ethnic Vietnamese refugees fled to China.

Immigration to other countries

Today, there are many Hoa communities in Australia, Canada, France, and the United States, where they have been instrumental in breathing new life into old existing Chinatowns. For example, the established Chinatowns of Los Angeles, Houston, Toronto, and Paris have a Vietnamese atmosphere due to the large presence of Hoa people. Some of these communities also have associations for transplanted Hoa refugees such as the l'Association des Résidents en France d'origine indochinoise in Paris.

The Vietnamese poulation in China now number up to 300,000, and live mostly in 194 refugee settlements mostly in the provinces of Guangdong, Yunnan, Fujian, Hainan, Jiangxi, and Guangxi. Most (85%+) have achieved economic independence, but the remainder still live below the poverty line in rural areas. While they have most of the same rights as Chinese nationals, including employment, education, housing, property ownership, pensions, and health care, they had not been granted citizenship and continued to be regarded by the government as refugees. Their refugee status allowed them to receive UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) assistance and aid until the early twenty-first century. In 2007, the Chinese government began drafting legislation to grant full Chinese citizenship to Indochinese refugees, including the ethnic Hoa which make up the majority, living within its borders.

There is also a sizable Hoa refugee population - many of whom speak Cantonese - in Hong Kong, but they have experienced discrimination in housing and employment.

In the United States, the Hoa have also started businesses in prominent Vietnamese communities called Little Saigon near Los Angeles and San Jose, including those in the states of California, Texas, and Washington. They own a large share of businesses especially catering to the local Vietnamese population.

Hoa concentrations in Vietnam


Vietnamese of Hoa descent in other countries

Hong Kong




United Kingdom

United States

Notable persons

See also


External links

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