Legendary "freedom fighter" on hunger strike over San Jose's Little Saigon flap
A legendary Vietnamese activist began a hunger strike Friday that he planned to continue until San Jose leaders agree to designate a Story Road retail area "Little Saigon."
Ly Tong, 59, a former South Vietnamese air force pilot known for his anti-communist leafletting campaigns, said he will stay outside City Hall eating nothing until San Jose leaders "listen to the voice of the people."
"I'll go day and night, I'll do nothing but drink this water," said Tong, seated in a lawn chair flanked by South Vietnamese and American flags and dozens of supporters.
The city council's 8-3 Nov. 20 vote designating the retail area "Saigon Business District" infuriated many in the city's large Vietnamese community who felt it ignored popular support for the name "Little Saigon."
They have called for the ouster of Councilwoman Madison Nguyen, the city's first Vietnamese elected official, who had proposed "Saigon Business District" with backing from Mayor Chuck Reed and three other council members. Council members this week agreed to reconsider the name March 4.
Tong came to the U.S. in 1983 after being imprisoned in communist labor camps after the Vietnam war. Sinc then, he has twice been convicted and imprisoned for hijacking planes and dropping leaflets on the former Saigon, urging his countrymen to overthrow the communist government. He also has leafletted over Cuba.
"I'm sorry he's decided to go on a hunger strike," Reed, an Air Force veteran himself, said Friday. "I hope he'll change his mind."
By John Woolfolk - The Mercury News - February 15, 2008.