Vietnamese boat people in Hong Kong : visual images and stories

Sophia Suk Mun LAW*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book Chapters | Papers in Conference ProceedingsBook ChapterResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


History is often recorded and read in texts. However, images are more powerful than words when it comes to revealing tragic episodes in history. One recent example are the thousands of images of 11 September 2001 collected by the United States Library of Congress (Adams 2002). These images vividly reflect the immediate emotions and their aftermath of a traumatic event. In April 1975, the fall of Saigon marked the beginning of one of the largest forced human migrations in modern history. To escape from the iron-fisted rule of the communist government, millions of Vietnamese risked their lives in a bid for freedom by fleeting the country in boats. According to a report issued by the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR) in 2000, one third of Vietnam’s boat people, or around 250,000 men, women and children, died at sea as a result of storms, illness, starvation or at the hands of their fellow passengers. For the survivors, their tragedy did not end once they reached land. Because of its geographic location and unique political situation, Hong Kong played a significant role in this drama. Between 1975 and 1995, Hong Kong took in 223,302 Vietnamese boat people and around 40 refugees camps at different periods were set up by the government to deal with the crisis (findings from my current project which involved many sources). This chapter features photographs taken during that period in an attempt to paint a vivid picture of the Vietnamese boat people’s plight in Hong Kong through the eyes of the media.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Chinese/Vietnamese diaspora : revisiting the boat people
EditorsYuk Wah CHAN
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)9780203813102
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011


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