Ho Chi Minh

Despotism in Indo-China
Protected and Protectors

First Published: Le Paria, July 16, 1923
Source: Selected Works of Ho Chi Minh Vol. 1
Publisher: Foreign Languages Publishing House
Transcription/Markup: Christian Liebl
Online Version: Ho Chi Minh Internet Archive (marxists.org) 2003

The superintendent of police in Dalat (Annam) has a strange way of understanding his role as a civilizer. One day this worthy collaborator of M. Sarraut wanted wooden planks. He sent out his men to fetch these materials at a native merchant’s. The latter did not wish to see his goods taken away without being paid beforehand. Hearing of this, the superintendent fumed and sent out armed men ordering them to bring in the Annamese offender ‘dead or alive’.

To escape the anger of the representative of the protector nation, the merchant, though ill, had to leave his home and native soil, and seek refuge in another province.

As a witness of the incident, a European doctor intervened in favour of the native. This ‘scandalous’ interference caused its author automatically to be transferred. It is in Kontum - an unhealthy region much feared by Europeans - that the doctor is now expiating his pro-native crime, while the Darleses and Baudoins bask peacefully in honours and comfort. This criminal guilty of this outrage against prestige is called Doctor Holstarich. Let us record our sympathy for him.

But now let us take a look at what happened to the Annamese merchant.

His name was written down in the register of suspects, and filed together with the ‘anti-French’ amongst those on whom a close watch was to be kept. An army of French and Annamese spies followed him closely with the mission of hourly noting his doings and investing all of them with a sinister intent. This surveillance was carried out fairly indiscreetly in order to discourage his friends and relatives from having dealings with him, to the point of making his life impossible. There was not a native who dared to come and see him, whatever the reason might be.

Completely isolated from the rest of his fellow-creatures, the Annamese merchant had to choose between becoming a bandit or a beggar; but the latter trade would have made him even more suspect.