Ly Kien Truc, photographer

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Background Information

Truong Van Tran, Hi-Tek store owner

Truong Van Tran, son of farmers and brother to six other siblings, was born in 1961 in Dong Thap, a village in southwest Vietnam. In 1980 he fled Thailand on a small boat with his cousin and sister. In June of that year he arrived in California and joined the Vo Vi meditation group. After four years of meditation study, Tran proclaimed himself a master and started lecturing across the nation. In 1989 he left the group due to conflicts with other members, and in the same year married Kim Khanh Thi Nguyen.

In order to contribute to the family income, Tran started salvaging and selling TV's and VCR's he found in neighborhood dumpsters. This experience, and the education he received through electronic courses, led him to open Hi-Tek TV and VCR in 1996 in Westminster, California.

His attitude about communism changed after numerous visits to Vietnam. There he witnessed social improvement and he began extolling the benefits of US-Vietnam relations. Tran expressed his views to his neighborhood community through fliers, newsletters, and organized debates. His decision to hang the poster of Ho Chi Minh and the communist flag during the Martin Luther King holiday was made in remembrance of King's fortitude as well as to exercise Tran's own 1st Amendment rights of free speech.

The exposure he received from the protests proved to be his financial downfall. The police assigned to escort Tran to his store also found evidence of video piracy, and Tran was found guilty of this crime by Superior Court Judge Cory Cramin, who sentenced him to both jail time and community service. Tran attempted an appeal, but it was later denied.

Vietnamese American Community in Orange County

The Vietnamese American community in Little Saigon was reported to be the "ultimate anti-communist stronghold" ( Los Angeles Times Orange County Edition, 24 January 1999). Many Vietnamese American residents in Orange County have hard-felt and vivid memories of Vietnam's communist regime, human rights violations made by communist soldiers, and traumatic journeys of escape. Due to this community's strong anti-communist feelings it has been argued that displaying a poster of Ho Chi Minh in Little Saigon was the equivalent of displaying a picture of Hitler in a Jewish neighborhood.

Little Saigon has a history of anti-community protests. With crowds reaching over 15,000, the Hi-Tek demonstrations received national and international media coverage. This event was reported to be the biggest demonstration by Vietnamese émigrés since the fall of Saigon in 1975. The demonstrations are also a prime example of the strong anti-Communist feelings in the Vietnamese American Community, particularly among former South Vietnamese officials and re-education camp detainees. Similar demonstrations were held in San Jose, New Orleans, and Houston.


  • 1999 January 17: Protests begin in front of Hi-Tek TV and VCR. Protestors say they will not stop demonstrating until display is taken down.
  • January 18: A reported demonstration of 400-600 people continues in front of Tran's shop. As he leaves for the day, Tran is physically assaulted and escorted out by police.
  • January 20: Landlord announces he will evict Tran and takes legal action that will force Tran to take down display. Security guards post eviction notice on store.
  • January 21: County Superior Judge Tam Nomoto Schumann issues preliminary injunction ordering Tran to take down display due to the landlord's argument that Tran broke lease agreement by creating a public nuisance. Tran's wife, Kim Nguyen, takes down display. Demonstrations cease.
  • February 4: The American Civil Liberties Union joins Tran's defense.
  • February 10: Judge Schumann revokes her order and says display is protected under the First Amendment. Tran is met with a crowd of 100 people and is struck in the head when trying to re-hang display. Tran is taken to the hospital.
  • February 13: Celebrations for Têt begins.
  • February 15: On the eve of Têt, protestors expect Tran to return to Hi-Tek due to Judge Schumann's recent revocation. These two elements heighten attendance. 200 police officers in riot gear are also in attendance. Tran is a no-show.
  • February 16: On the first day of Têt, attendees show up in front of store to celebrate the lunar new year as well as demonstrate against Vietnamese communism.
  • February 16: Tran is delivered a 3-day eviction notice.
  • February 18 - 21 : Annual Têt Festival in Little Saigon.
  • February 20: Tran and his wife return to store to re-hang display. A demonstration of 10,000 protest. Demonstrators try to block Bushard and Bolsa avenues and thirty-one people are arrested when attempting to break police barricade. Tran and wife arrive and leave with police escort.
  • February 20: Annual Little Saigon Têt parade
  • February 22: Pro-freedom rally in Little Saigon
  • February 26: Peaceful demonstrations during which an estimated 15,000 protestors attend a nighttime rally organized by youth groups. Despite the peaceful protests, 10 arrests are made.
  • March 3: Panel discussion held by church leaders and community members in order to voice experiences under communism and criticize Hanoi's human rights violations.
  • March 5: Police raid Hi-Tek and seize videocassettes and recorders. Allegations are made accusing Tran of video piracy, which he denies.
  • March 5: During the seizure, a burglar steals Tran's poster of Ho Chi Minh and the communist flag.
  • March 11: Demonstrations end, marked by the dismantling of the Hi-Tek sign.
  • August 10: Tran is found guilty of video piracy by Superior Court Judge Cory Cramin and sentenced to 90 days in jail. Tran's attorney, Ronald Talmo, appeals.

From the guide to the Ly Kien Truc photographs of the Hi-Tek demonstrations, 1999, (University of California, Irvine. Library. Special Collections and Archives.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Ly Kien Truc photographs of the Hi-Tek demonstrations, 1999 University of California, Irvine. Library. Department of Special Collections
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Hi Tek TV and VCR (Westminster, Calif.) corporateBody
associatedWith Hô Chí Minh, 1890-1969 person
associatedWith Online Archive of California. corporateBody
associatedWith Tran, Troung Van. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Political refugees


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Ark ID: w65v5sr8

SNAC ID: 29081597