President Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC), on August 8, sent his condolences to his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Phu Trong about the death of former General Secretary Le Kha Phieu of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV).
Xi said he was “shocked” when he heard that “comrade Le Kha Phieu passed away,” the China Daily reported.
“Comrade Le Kha Phieu is an outstanding senior leader of the Communist Party of Vietnam,” state news agency quoted the CPC’s head as saying.
Mr. Xi also praised Mr. Phieu for “leading the Vietnamese people to achieve great achievements in the reform and building of socialism in Vietnam.”
The former CPV’s general secretary died on August 7 in Hanoi after a long illness, at the age of 89 years old.
He held the position of the CPV’s general secretary from December 1997 to April 2001.
Xi evaluated “Comrade Le Kha Phieu is also a close comrade and close friend of the Party and the people of China.”
Xi offered his condolences “on behalf of the Communist Party of China, the government and the people of China,” and “on behalf of individuals.”
Speaking about the former general secretary’s contribution to the Vietnam-China relationship, Xi said that Phieu “is a comrade and a close friend” of the Communist Party and the people of China, having made “excellent contributions” to the development of the “friendly neighbor, comprehensive cooperation, long-term stability, forward-looking relationship” between China and Vietnam.
According to the Xinhua News Agency, in his condolence letter, Mr. Xi said China “attaches great importance to the consolidation and development of the traditional friendship relationship between the two countries, is ready to cooperate with Vietnam in enhancing confidence, trust each other in politics, strengthen solidarity and cooperation in order to promote the relationship between the two Parties and the two countries.”
Mr. Phieu was the party chief from December 1997 to April 2001. During his tenure in this position, Vietnam signed the “US-Vietnam Trade Agreement in 2000, opened a new turning point in the relationship between two former enemies of the war.
However, he was also accused of having a “pro-China” policy and had instructed to “make concessions” during the border negotiations on the Gulf of Tonkin with Beijing, resulting in the loss of the Vietnamese side of Nam Quan border gate, a part of Ban Gioc waterfall and thousands of square kilometers in the area. However, Hanoi rejected this information because it was “unfounded.”
According to a special announcement on the evening of August 10 by the CPV’s Central Committee, the national funeral for Mr. Phieu will be held for two days, August 14 and Aug 15. Secretary General cum State President Nguyen Phu Trong will be the head of the committee in the funeral board of 35 people.
On the morning of August 7, when state newspapers simultaneously reported that Mr. Phieu passed away, at the age of 89, there were many “no mercy” comments on social media, but instead a number of critical comments.
State media said Mr. Phieu passed away “after a period of illness, even though he was treated with all his heart, his family wholeheartedly cared for it,” while Facebooker Le Nguyen Huong Tra said more clearly that “had cancer and his family took him to the Military Hospital 108 on the night of August 6.”
After Mr. Phieu passed away, his praises could only be read in state newspapers.
In the opposite direction, writing on social media, journalist Ngoc Vinh, former secretary of Tuoi Tre newspaper, commented: “A former head of state dies but does not receive any public grief so others should review the way he was at the office. As such, he does not deserve national mourning.”
At the same time, political activist and Facebooker Pham Minh Vu wrote: “In 1999, with the Vietnam-China Border Separation Treaty, Do Muoi, Le Kha Phieu, and Phan Van Khai ceded to China Nam Quan border gate, half of Ban Gioc waterfall, and 15,000 square kilometers along the Vietnam-China border. Also in December 2000, it was that trio of power that cut 15,000 square kilometers of the Gulf of Tonkin sold to China in the Gulf of Tonkin Delimitation Agreement.
People will remember Le Kha Phieu’s merit to the Vietnamese as well as the Chinese Communist Party, probably only that much, a traitor selling the country. That’s all!“
Concerning this “allegation,” in Chapter 20, the book “Ben Thang Cuoc/The winners,” journalist Huy Duc wrote: “As a military general who just started to work in politics, Mr. Le Kha Phieu lacked the experience to deal with Beijing’s intriguing leaders. The decisions made during his term have been criticized both internally and in public opinion, especially for the tough decisions to conclude negotiations on the Vietnam-China Border Agreement. But, in many ways, General Secretary Le Kha Phieu just followed the CPV’s policies set up since the ‘Chengdu’ secret agreement.”
Mr. Huy Duc added: “The border planning, and the clarification of 227 square kilometers in 164 disputed areas, or different perceptions of the direction of the border, is called area C. during the term of General Secretary Le Kha Phieu and Prime Minister Phan Van Khai. Concessions are inevitable in negotiations, but concessions at Huu Nghi Quan gate and Ban Gioc waterfall, where since ancient times the Vietnamese states have asserted sovereignty and in the people’s subconscious mind, has become a part of the spiritual territory that is difficult to differentiate contributions and sins.”
Veteran journalist Duc also revealed the behind-the-scenes story of the Politburo Conference on January 5, 2001, concluding that Le Kha Phieu “violated the principle of collective leadership” and that after the 11th Plenum, the party advisers, especially former President General Le Duc Anh, sent people to meet the senior cadres to report information related to the “mistakes of General Secretary Le Kha Phieu.”
“The Inspection Committee concludes not to recommend disciplinary measures against Mr. Le Kha Phieu and Mr. Pham Thanh Ngan but proposed not to re-elect them in the 9th term. During the Politburo met, Mr. Phieu was requested to withdraw from the Central Committee. There is an opinion that requires to discipline Mr. Phieu before he leaves politics,” according to Duc’s book.
To the general public, referring to Mr. Phieu, people recall the pictures in the article “Visiting the home of former General Secretary Le Kha Phieu” posted on BBC Vietnamese Language in January 2009, causing a stir.
At that time, this British media agency said that the photo of Phieu’s residence on the first day of the Lunar New Year was sent by anonymous readers.
The photos show the magnificent residence of Mr. Phieu located on Ly Nam De Street, Hanoi. In the house, there is a large set of ivory placed in front of his large portrait, in addition to his bust, bronze drum, Buddha statue, and a clean vegetable garden. This detail was repeated by a number of bloggers when he died, with the question: “Does his house have a clean vegetable garden and why is he still suffering from cancer?”
Also about this event, writer Nguyen Hung Quoc currently in Melbourne, Australia wrote on his Facebook that:
“How the Vietnamese press also has articles praising his merit. However, objectively, during the years of absolute rule in Vietnam (1997-2001), he could hardly do anything important. He often talked about sovereignty, but under him, in the border agreement, Vietnam ceded a lot of land to China. He often talked about fighting corruption, but under him, corruption was still rampant. He often talked about democracy, but up to now, Vietnam still has absolutely no democracy at all. All successive General Secretaries, including Le Kha Phieu, could only do one thing: Maintain monopoly on the leadership of the Communist Party. That is all.”