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Fountain Valley councilman aims to block Vietnam officials' visit

Mayor Pro Tem Michael Vo objects to an invitation to business and government officials from the city's Chamber of Commerce and warns of possible unrest.

January 23, 2013|By Anh Do, Los Angeles Times

A Fountain Valley councilman is leading the charge to block a delegation of business and government officials from Vietnam, saying it will unleash a storm of protesters in the increasingly immigrant city.

Mayor Pro Tem Michael Vo said an official visit from a country "without human rights and respect for freedom will not be accepted by the Vietnamese community, many who live here."

Vo said it would be fiscally irresponsible to pay for police services for a likely protest, which he predicted could draw hundreds.

"I cannot be silent and let this happen under my watch," added Vo, the first Vietnamese American member of Fountain Valley's City Council.

In a letter to council colleagues and directors of the city Chamber of Commerce, he wrote: "I will not stand by to have any foreign government take advantage of our businesses and of our Chamber of Commerce, disrupt the peace and the tranquillity ... and drain this community of its financial and human resources."

At the invitation for the chamber, the delegation is set to visit the city in March.

Mayor Mark McCurdy said he'd just learned of Vo's concerns and is yet unsure whether he supports the effort to block the delegation.

Chamber officials plan to open their office to host a reception for the guests, City Manager Ray Kromer said in an in-house memo to the council. "We understand that the plan so far is to keep this relatively low-key. We need to assess how the community will react."

Mary Parsons, president and CEO of Fountain Valley's chamber, said the visit is not confirmed, adding that she and the board's executive committee plan to meet soon on the matter.

Ken Duong, an attorney and chairman of the chamber's board, declined to comment. Vo targeted Duong in his note, saying that he owns "a law firm which is focused on international business & immigration and that generating global network is important."

When a theater troupe from Vietnam visited Fountain Valley in September, nearly 300 demonstrators swarmed the Saigon Performing Arts Center, vocally attacking the visitors from Ho Chi Minh City. It cost the city $8,000 in police services to control the crowd, Vo said.

He also cited the demonstration outside Hitek TV & VCR in neighboring Westminster in 1999, when more than 15,000 people united against a Little Saigon merchant displaying the Communist flag and a picture of Ho Chi Minh at his video store. City officials there paid almost $200,000 for overtime police, among other expenses, during 53 days of protest.

In recent months, officials in Westminster and Garden Grove have passed legislation requiring advance notice of visits from communist delegations so police have time to prepare. Vo said he plans to introduce a similar ordinance in Fountain Valley. The heavily Vietnamese community known as Little Saigon reaches into all three cities, as well as Santa Ana.

anh.do@latimes.com

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