Mr. Cao goes to Vietnam: Revelations in a WikiLeaks cable

Anh "Joseph" Cao in Louisiana in 2010. (Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Back in 2010, Rep. Joseph Cao, the first Vietnamese-American to serve in Congress, bungled his visit to Vietnam and was highly criticized for it.

First, it was a plain bad idea to go to the communist country just when that government increased its persecution of religious groups there, especially the Catholic Church.

Second, Cao was in such a hurry he whisked there without telling anyone and the world ended up learning about it through the (very self-serving) reporting of state-owned media from Vietnam.

Many called him a tool – knowing or otherwise – of the Vietnamese government, or at least of the Vietnamese propaganda machine. Others shook their heads and thought, boy, how naive can Cao get. They were most disappointed that Cao, a former Jesuit seminarian, didn’t even say or do anything to help the oppressed Catholics there.

Now, a diplomatic cable disclosed in the WikiLeaks database finally (but only partially) vindicated Cao.

The note written by the U.S. Ambassador to Hanoi reveals that Cao did speak out for freedom of religion in the country, going so far as a to call for placing Vietnam on the list of Countries of Particular Concern on religious rights.

But that note also reveals Cao as a political lightweight who was no match for the seasoned government officials that he met on his trip, and anything he might have planned to do about human rights in Vietnam was easily neutralized.

For sure, Cao had a good time on his trip, as part of a 3-member delegation with Eni Faleomavaega (a nonvoting Congressman from American Samoa) and Michael Honda (D-San Jose).

Cao and Honda got to Saigon first. Accompanied by consulate officers, they met with the External Relations Office and then, on their own, they visited the largest and best known maternity hospital of Vietnam, the Tu Du (Từ Dũ) Hospital.

Then Cao went to visit his hometown, Trung Chanh, which is in the far end of Ho Chi Minh City.

The next day, Faleomavaega arrived and the three flew to Hanoi, where Ambassador Michael Michalak took them around.

In the evening, the delegation was hosted by the National Assembly Foreign Affairs Vice Chairman, Ngo Quang Xuan.

That was when Cao spoke up. According to the cable,

Congressman Cao offered his personal, frank assessment of the current human rights and religious freedom situations in Vietnam, including a recommendation that Vietnam be returned to the CPC list.

“Not surprisingly,” the note said, “the Congressman’s statements prompted a strong rebuttal from Vice Chairman Xuan, who strongly defended the GVN position on human rights and religious freedom with well-known talking points.”

And … that was it from Cao!

Hit by a barrage of “well-known talking points,” Cao shut up. The whole religious freedom thing was never brought up again. No more CPC talk.

The next day, meeting with even bigger cheese from the Vietnamese side, Cao became utterly meek. The cable made him out to be close to apologetic. Meeting with the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee:

Congressman Cao, speaking in Vietnamese, assured [Nguyen Van] Son that he did not intend to overthrow the Vietnamese Government. All political disagreements should be expressed openly in order to find common ground on issues of concern. “It is important that we continue to talk together and address any differences,” he noted.

Ngo Quang Xuan, Vietnam's former ambassador to the WTO, vice-chair of its National Assembly's foreign affairs committee, and apparently the man who mortally wounded Cao's advocacy.

Meeting with the Chairman of the State Committee for Overseas Vietnamese (a position which makes him something of the sworn enemy of Vietnamese-American anti-communist protestors):

Representative Cao stated that many Vietnamese-Americans are vocal about issues facing Vietnam because they want to see the country prosper.

Meeting with the Vice Foreign Minister (who’s now the Foreign Minister):

Cao thanked the GVN for granting him a visa and allowing him to return to his country of birth. Congressman Cao noted that he continues to have a strong affinity for Vietnam even though he left when he was eight years old. Congressman Cao said he would continue to express his personal opinions on issues facing Vietnam, but only with the intent of making Vietnam a stronger, more stable and prosperous country.

Somehow one dress-down from a second-tier official was enough to drain Cao of all advocacy energy.

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15 Responses to Mr. Cao goes to Vietnam: Revelations in a WikiLeaks cable

  1. Unkle K says:

    Cao was smart enough not to wear that “SVN” lapel to VN like that former house boy Assemblyman. Second of all, any point in discussing anything with that thug government, like the former “democratic” one, all crooks! All these idiots know is violence, no morality, no nothing.

  2. Jung Kim says:

    Unkel K de sour mouth, Bo May is right.

    Without holding inexperienced Cao at fault, Commies are far from being afraid of these two Asian reps in today’s social economical climate.

    I still appreciate Cao’s effort in beaming human right issues head- on.

  3. caofan says:

    International political fight must be resolved in a diplomacy way and that is exactly what Cao did. Dont’ expect Cao sitting at the coffee shop at the corner of Bolsa and Brookhust to trash talk the commie to earn the Fight for Freedom title. You fight the wise way not the stupid way.

  4. Unkel K says:

    I’s not surprise for some “gook” to say crap like we’s special viet and don’t need to breed outside of immediate family…daddy also broduh, mom also sista. We’s have own flag with kaka as emblem.

  5. jose s. says:

    Jung kim, the success of the viet community was built because of the hard work of the people who made it happen not the loser viet politicians who have made a good living fooling the viet sheep who believe in them. But not to worry my little commie friend the times they are a changin’

  6. Pingback: Viết báo khác viết blog | Vũ Quí Hạo Nhiên viết blog Người Việt

  7. Unkel K says:

    I’s reminensce the good ol’ “gook” days when ol’ viet farts used to start every sentence with DMM, CC, and all the famous viet expletives. Thems boys were merely reflecting the low class culture thems in. Flash forward to today we’s have pretty much same scum doing the same to the younger generation who don’t know better. See, viet culture was never allowed to modernized, still the cave dwelling, backward, and moronic. These old scum using it to control the young, all in the name of being viet…All youse young viet believing in the old viet ways, be sure to hang up your education and training and get ready to plow the fields with oxen and farm animals because them old farts are uneducated and very low class and are the biggest liars and cheats there’s ever was.

    That being said, there are a few excellent viet individuals but hard to spot diamond among the manure.

  8. Jung Kim says:

    There are few good leaders….. having said that, there are still many more good Viet supporters.

    I am just proud to being a Guru representing our awesome community.

    Go Viets!

  9. xu says:

    Hanoi is proud of Representive Cao.

    He is representing Vietnamese well world wide.

  10. MN says:

    A cub politician who still believes in miracle, the kind of Louisiana’s miracle that only happened once. I’m telling you, in Vietnam, no matter how ridiculous, the propaganda machine has talking points for everything. In their words, Gaddafi joined the occupy sewer movement and finally died of natural causes. And you know what, the most relevant threat to Viet American way of life now is from Bank of America

  11. Jung Kim says:

    The future of this country seem pretty murky now days.

  12. Unkel K says:

    Don’t worry about the US; concentrate on this dying BS blog…on its last leg from the inactivity. Where’s all the old phucks to say crap about the past of the their beloved BS country and being more viet while living in the US? Be sure to stuff that flag where it truly belongs, old fart geezers!

  13. Mel Gibson says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsRbO7cw__c&feature=related

    Educate yourselves and watch this video. There are scumbag racist assholes like Unkel K who use the term “gook.” Unkel K is a fucking faggot idiot. I will kick his fucking teeth in.

  14. Unkel K says:

    Kicking another individual’s teeth in? Same as commie chasing…code words for bi-curious activity…lady boy style.

  15. small business says:

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    Mr. Tuan Pham,

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