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Some materials about Da Nang’s management of Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago (1945-1950)

(LLCT) - Paracel archipelago is a district-level administrative unit of Da Nang City. From the August Revolution in 1945 up to now, Da Nang authorities have always paid attention to the activities of exploiting, protecting the traditional fishing ground and the sovereignty over this island district. Based on some archived documents and memoirs, the article mentions a few activities of the Da Nang Municipal Party Committee in the years from 1945 to 1950 to overtake and protect Paracel archipelago, showing the special concern of the Committee about this sacred territory of the Fatherland.

Vietnam is one of the countries having great marine advantages and potentiality with a vast sea territory (more than 1 million km2), long coast (about 3,260 km), more than 3,000 islands of different sizes, especially Spartly and Paracel archipelagos which are located on the international maritime route.

After the August Revolution in 1945, the city once called “concession of Tourane” was renamed Thai Phien. By 21st December 1945, the city had officially been renamed Da Nang City(1). Right after learning that the colonial French Government was overthrown, some fishermen, workers, meteorological staff, etc. who lived on Paracel archipelago sent a delegation to meet with the Da Nang revolutionary authorities. Regarding this, Mr. Che Viet Tan and Le Dinh Sieu, who were in the Thai Phien Municipal Government at that time, recalled: “Learning that the people in the mainland had risen to seize power successfully, in March 1946, the residents on Paracel archipelago immediately sent two delegations for a visit. They came to greet and ask for the instruction of the Da Nang Revolutionary People’s Committee. The two delegations were warmly and thoughtfully received and clearly told about the new regime - the democratic republic regime and the new revolutionary guidelines and policies - by the city authorities. Right after that, in April and May of 1946, the Da Nang Revolutionary People’s Committee sent two delegations to Paracel islands. The first delegation, led by Engineer Phan Nien - Deputy Chief of Public Works, came to overtake Paracel archipelago. The second one with necessities, led by Nguyen Dinh Lieu, Head of Social Assistance Committee, and Phan Kim, Head of Judiciary Committee (who had come at the first time), visited and presented gifts to the people and continued learning the situation on the islands. The people on Paracel archipelago were deeply moved because of the attention and regard of the city government”(2). Through the information which the people on the islands told the delegations, it was known that, although life was hard and being far away from the mainland, the people lived in an organized way and took care of each other”(3). From before 1945 to 1950, although Paracel archipelago were administered by the French, the travel, supply of necessities for soldiers, technical staff, guano workers, fishermen, builders, etc. was done from Da Nang by ship. “Living on the island makes it extremely hard for the people to contact the mainland. Before the coup d’état against the French carried out by the Japanese, every three months, ships from the mainland had travelled to the islands for supplies to the resident soldiers and technical staff”(4).

Until 1950, having identified the essential position of Paracel archipelago, the Da Nang Municipal Committee thought: “The remarks on the relation position of the islands show that the enemy has also started paying attention to the defense here. We need to follow the situation closely, especially the military arrangement of the enemy here, so it is advised to promote the intelligence task. In order to receive all the daily information on the islands reported by fishermen or coolies, it is necessary to assign communication with the above mentioned people”(5). Guided by this instruction, basing on the discussions of the Da Nang People’s Council and with the approval of the Southern Central Vietnam Administrative Resistance Committee, Che Viet Tan signed a decision in name of the Da Nang Administrative Resistance Committee to establish the Paracel Administrative Resistance Committee which consisted of 5 people to manage the people on Paracel archipelago. The members of this committee were verified very carefully. At that time, in the decision sent to Da Nang quarters, the Southern Central Administrative Resistance Committee and Quang Nam Province, Che Viet Tan also signed an instruction of the Da Nang Municipal Militia Section to assign the people on Paracel archipelago with establishing a platoon of militias with a view to protecting the islands”(6).

From 1949 to 1950, there were a lot of changes in the world and the region, the National Government led by Bao Dai as well as China had a lot of repeated acts towards the Spratly and Paracel archipelagos of Vietnam. At that time, despite having no proof of sovereignty, the Republic of China claimed repeatedly and falsely that Paracel archipelago belonged to the Chinese. Soldiers on the island also asked the French Consulate to inform the French authorities that if French ships paid a visit to the islands, notice should be made in advance to avoid misunderstanding(7). For the French Government and the Vietnamese National Government of King Bao Dai, they also had the clear expressions of Vietnam’s sovereignty over Paracel archipelago. At the note of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs dated May 15, 1950, it clearly showed description of Paracel archipelago and importance of the archipelago, the issues of sovereignty over Paracel archipelago consisting of rejecting the Republic of China’s sovereignty claim over Paracel archipelago and asserting that: the Republic of China just paid attention to the occupation of Paracel archipelago from 1907 to 1932, French’s assertion on sovereignty over Paracel archipelago based on old historical materials of Vietnam; French occupation of Paracel archipelago from 1937 to 1945, while the Republic of China still maintained sovereignty principles, the sovereignty dispute between France and Japan from 1938 to 1945; Japan’s surrender to the allies after World War II and the French’s dispatching the Escarmouche to investigate Paracel archipelago from 20 to 27 May 1946; the sovereignty dispute which continued breaking out between France and the Republic of China; current situation (15 May, 1950) and existing problems in sovereignty dispute over Paracel archipelago(8).

On monitoring of the situation on Paracel archipelago, there is a paragraph in a report sent to the Party Committee of Region V of the Da Nang Municipal Party Committee, which read in part: “In May 1950, newspapers in Saigon and France posted a lot of information on the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s occupying some islands of Paracel archipelago. This raised opinion in urban cities so high that the French command had to issue a ceasefire announcement. The announcement of the French acknowledged: “The motor boats of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army had kept hanging around the Xisha Islands (Paracel archipelago) many times, but they had not landed”(9). On 14 October, 1950, “the French government officially handed over the defense and management of Paracel archipelago to the Government of Bao Dai. Phan Van Giao - General Governor of the Central Region came to Paracel archipelago to chair this power transfer ceremony(10).

To help the Party Central Committee and Party Committee of Zone V have clear understanding of Paracel archipelago situation, Mr. Che Viet Tan, Civil Affairs Secretary of the Da Nang City and Chairman of the City Administrative Resistance Committee, Political Officer, Representative of Commissars in Da Nang (the task of the Representative of Commissars was to unify the local and main armed forces, intelligence organizations of the Central Government, Interzone V operating in Da Nang) had mobilized forces to conduct an investigation into Hoàng Sa archipelago since the French troops dispatched a battleship to the islands from the end of May 1946 to October 1950, to make detailed report to the Party Central Committee and the Party Committee of Zone V. Concerning the situation of the people on the islands, a paragraph of the report said: “On the islands, such as Cu Lao Re, Cu Lao Cham, there are no local people, but only people from the mainland who followed the French to earn their living. The fellow-citizens came there to work as coolies, bricklayers, carpenters, builders, civil servants, nurses, soldiers (previously guardsmen). Prior to the Vietnam - France war, the people were quite interested in going to the islands because they could acquire large amounts of money. But now, they are so worried that they dare not come there. So the French had to recruit laborers, workers at a rather high cost with advanced rents, compensations, etc. Recently, the French have had to take the prisoners and political prisoners there for surveillance and force them to work as laborers”(11). The noteworthy point was that in order to follow the situation on the islands, the Da Nang Municipal Party Committee thought of setting up a party cell in Paracel archipelago at that time, and the report composed by Che Viet Tan consisted of the proposal to the Party Committee of Zone V and the Party Central Committee as follows: “At present, there are some comrades and political prisoners at two prisons of the enemy, who were exiled to Paracel archipelago as well as workers. So, it is favorable to assign them the mission to “set up a Party base, public relations and then establish all levels of the Party organization”(12).

During the initial years from 1945 to 1950 after the establishment of the Da Nang Municipal Party Committee, it always paid close attention to taking over, following the situation of the islands, although Paracel archipelago was in fact under the control of the French and the National Government of Bao Dai at that time. Promoting that spirit, from the reunification of our country till present, the Quang Nam - Da Nang Provincial Party Committee and later the Da Nang Municipal Party Committee have been always concerned about the management and protection of Paracel archipelago. This is the administrative activity, which is both internal and external relation activity so as to mobilize the overall strength to protect national sovereignty and interest and maintain order, protect the legitimate interest of organizations, citizens, especially fishermen on Paracel archipelago - the sacred part of Vietnam.

l Endnotes:


(1) Quoted from Nguyen Quang An: Changes in Place names and Administrative Boundaries, Vietnam News Agency Publishing House, Hanoi, 2003, p.155.

(2), (3), (4), (6) Communication Department of Da Nang Municipal Party Committee: Remember the Revolutionary Autumn Forever, Da Nang, 2000, p.505, 506, 507, 508-509.

(5), (9), (11), (12) “Report on Paracel archipelago” dated 17 October, 1950, signed by Mr. Che Viet Tan - Secretary of Da Nang Municipal Party Committee. Documents kept at the Archives Department - Office of the Party Central Committee - Archives of Party Central Committee, Document No. 051-01-0650.

(7) See Monique Chemillier Geudreau: Sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 1998, p.256.

(8) See French Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “Notes to the Asia Department”, Paris dated 25-May, 1950. Quoted from Monique Chemillier Geudreau: Sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 1998, p.183.

(10)See Nguyen Viet Long: The Right, International Law and Sovereignty over Paracel and Spratly archipelagos, Youth Publishing House, Ho Chi Minh City, 2013, p.108.

MA Luu Anh Ro

Communication Department of Da Nang Municipal Party Committee

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