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Vietnamese-Americans Fight Irvine City Council Member’s Friendship-City Proposal

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IRVINE (CBSLA.com/AP) — Thousands of Vietnamese-Americans flooded an Irvine city council meeting Tuesday to protest a proposal to create official ties with a Vietnamese city known for its human rights violations and human trafficking.

KCAL9’s Stacey Butler reports leaders heard from hundreds of people at a city council meeting Tuesday night as they spoke out against city council member Larry Agran’s proposal to become a friendship-city with Nha Trang.

“It is a chance for us to speak up, to let the world know what’s going on in Vietnam,” Garden Grove school board trustee Lan Quoc Nguyen said.

Irvine council members voted 3-2 to draw up new criteria for forming ties with foreign cities, including new rules that would exclude municipalities in countries that do not respect human rights or democratic values, according to the Associated Press.

More than 2,000 Vietnamese-Americans, some of whom bussed in from Temple City and San Diego, packed City Hall.

“We must send a clear and unwavering message to the oppressors that we will not shake hands with a government that strips its own people of their basic, fundamental, God-given rights,” Yorba Linda resident Kathy Nguyen said.

“Establisng any type of relationship with Vietnam and hanging the Communist flag would be like hanging a photo of Hitler in the Jewish community,” Garden Grove resident Nina Tran said.

Dozens of people addressed the city council, with so many filling its chambers that hundreds spilled out in the overflow section to watch from outside.

“Today, I ask that you reflect on our constitution and practice what our forefathers have fought long and hard for. And that is… freedom, liberty and justice for all,” Kathy Nguyen continued.

Agran said he proposed the friendship to create positive change in a contentious city.

“Little efforts are worth pursuing to try and bring about incremental movement toward greater democracy and toward greater results,” Agran said.

The city council member later withdrew the motion.

Orange County Supervisor Janet Nguyen cited United Nations data identifying Vietnam as one of the worst violators of human rights – and Nha Trang as a hot spot for human trafficking and child labor violations.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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