Pål Moddi Knutsen & Jørgen Nordby

Việt Khang - Where is my Vietnam?

IN MAY 2011, THREE CHINESE GUNBOATS opened fire on Vietnamese fishing vessels near the uninhabited Spratly islands in the South China Sea. This was only the last of numerous confrontations between the two countries, which both claim sovereignty over the remote, but resource-rich islands.

Foreign aggression is not something new to the Vietnamese people. After numerous and long periods of occupation through the country’s history, the fear of yet another invasion has become a national trauma. The incident at Spratly sparked off mass protests in the capital Hanoi, where people took to the streets demanding reactions against the Chinese hostility. The government however, responded by breaking up the demonstrators by force, including mass arrests and police violence against the protesters.

Viet Khang was 34 years old and living in My Tho, a small city in southern Vietnam, far away from the most serious turmoil. Through internet forums and amateur footage on Youtube, he received news about the demonstrations.

Khang reacted with anger against the violent treatment of the demonstrators. Enraged, he wrote two songs where he criticised the government, and urged the people to continue protesting, both against China’s aggression and against the lack of action from the Vietnamese leaders:

"Old and young, men and women
raise your fists, fight the invaders
and the cowards who betrayed Vietnam”

Khang recorded the two songs in his home studio and uploaded them to Youtube. A few weeks after, he was arrested by the local police and and charged with “anti-state propaganda against the socialist republic of Vietnam”. The trial was short and superficial. Viet Khang was eventually sentenced to 4 years in prison and 3 years of house arrest in My Tho.

While Khang was in prison, his wife filed for divorce and left together with their 5-year-old son. When he was released, Khang had no family, no job and no home, and had to serve the period of house arrest in his mother’s place. Still, he did not regret having written the songs. “I spoke the truth. That is why the party is so afraid of me, because deep down they know that I was speaking the truth.”

The dispute over the Spratly islands is still unresolved.


Pål Moddi Knutsen & Jørgen Nordby

From album: Onsongs: Forbidden story



Viet Khang told his story

Cái Đình - 2016