The Communist Smear Campaign Against the Hòa Hảo

29 Tháng Mười 201312:00 SA(Xem: 1796)
The Communist Smear Campaign Against the Hòa Hảo

Apart from Communist reprisals, the Hòa Hảo community became the target of a smear campaign. It was claimed that in 1940 and 1941, some preachers of the Hòa Hảo religion allegedly performed human sacrifices in Cần Thơ and Tân Châu. Many more such acts of barbarism have been laid at the door of the Hòa Hảo movement, although there was no firm evidence that the congregation was responsible for their occurrence.

Hòa Hảo followers argued that allegations of human sacrifices and cannibalism surfaced no earlier than 1947 and that these claims were, in fact, Việt Minhs propaganda designed to smear the Hòa Hảo followers. The Communists viewed the Hòa Hảo movement as a dangerous rival in the south, hence, the Việt Minh intended to employ all available means against their perceived antagonists. Therefore, the Communists relied on the extensive use of their propaganda machine to defame the Hòa Hảo community and adepts. On the other hand, Việt Minh leaders also aimed to slander the Hòa Hảo movement to whitewash their own action, notably the traitorous abduction of Huỳnh Phú Sổ.

According to some former Việt Minh fighters who refused to evacuate to the north and remained in the south in the aftermath of the Geneva agreements in 1954, Minh Đức, Chuyện Hòa Hảo Ăn Thịt Người. Ngày Nay Daily, Houston, May 14, 1981. the Communist propaganda team carried out a long-term psy-war operation against the Hòa Hảo. The gist of the operation was to spread rumors and allegations of so called “Hòa Hảo cannibalism.” The Việt Minh agitators reportedly attended special courses to learn how to spread similar allegations from different locations in the Mekong Delta. The propaganda campaign reportedly aimed at defaming the Hòa Hảo community in the eyes of Saigon public opinion. As the first rumors of cannibalism in Châu Đốc first surfaced, a few people in Saigon believed. However, when similar allegations arrived from Cần Thơ and Sa Đéc, public opinion in Saigon gradually concluded that there was no smoke without fire.

Moreover, these rumors were mentioned by the contemporary press and in the process of dissemination via media outlets, the allegations somewhat acquired a semblance of accuracy. Notably, in late 1947 one Saigon journalist, Trần Tấn Quốc, published a report entitled “I was detained by the Hòa Hảo” in Tiếng Dội (Echo) newspaper. He alleged that he had been arrested by Hòa Hảo units in Cần Thơ and Vĩnh Long provinces, detained and tortured. The author also quoted his alleged fellow inmates who told him appalling stories of coercion and extortion. Trần Tấn Quốc also claimed there were “foodstalls to sell human flesh and liver” where the Hòa Hảo fighters allegedly got their food supplies before marching to the frontline.

The Tiếng Dội daily run Trần Tấn Quốcs longish article for several days in a row. As a result a joint investigation commission, which included representatives of the Saigon government, the Hòa Hảo community and the French military, was formed. The commission looked closely at the matter and concluded that Trần Tấn Quốcs report was an obvious fabrication, which did not include even a minor portion of truth. All the reports details relative to the authors alleged detention as well as details of military operations in this area were not based on reality. The commission concluded that the article in question was in fact a psy-war operation by the Communists or some other group hostile to the Hòa Hảo movement. Eventually, Trần Tấn Quốc proved to be a pro-Communist activist.

In order to support its smear campaign Việt Minh agitators spread a dictum “Lying like the Hòa Hảo,” or “Nói láo như Hòa Hảo.” By spreading this deceptive motto, Communist agitators intended to forestall any attempts of Hòa Hảo followers to disprove allegations of human sacrifices and cannibalism.
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