Last-minute cancellation of popular Vietnamese singer’s concert raises eyebrows

Authorities cited technical reasons for the cancellation of Khanh Ly’s Sept. 24 Hanoi show.
By RFA Vietnamese
2022.09.28
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Last-minute cancellation of popular Vietnamese singer’s concert raises eyebrows Khanh Ly performs at a concert in Da Lat, Vietnam, June 25, 2022.
Viettel Media

Vietnamese authorities canceled a weekend concert by popular overseas-based Vietnamese singer Khanh Ly, raising concerns from activists that officials in the one-party Communist state had political motives for the cancellation.

The musical show, “Nostalgia of Hanoi Autumn,” slated for Sept 24, was canceled at the last minute, with the Hanoi Opera House citing electricity cuts at the venue in the Vietnamese capital. 

But some activists told RFA that they doubted the official reasoning provided for scrapping a program that also featured other well-known Vietnamese singers, including Cam Van, Khac Trieu, Duc Tuan, and Quang Thanh.. 

Poet Hoang Hung, a member of Vietnam Independent Writers Association, said that his experiences told him to doubt the “technical reason” as explained in the letter.

“It’s noteworthy that some articles covering this incident have been removed. My experience tells me that there must be something suspicious here,” he told RFA. “In Vietnam, there is always another reason that everyone can figure out. It is: The authorities don't like it.”

Local authorities in Hanoi had weaponized power outages to stop two restaurants from serving a meeting for members of Văn Viêt, a literature forum created by a group of Vietnamese writers to campaign for and promote the establishment of a “Vietnam Independent Writers Association,” Hung noted.

He also said that authorities have become more cautious in granting cultural event permits than in previous years. 

Khanh Ly has performed in Vietnam on previous occasions. 

She fled Vietnam after the fall of Saigon, the capital of the former South Vietnam government, to Communist Party rule in 1975, and had been performing across Vietnam since June in a tour celebrating her 60-year musical career. 

But in her first performance on the 2022 tour, singing for over 1,000 fans in the highland city of Da Lat, she sang “Gia tai của me” (Mother’s treasure), a song that was not on the pre-approved list of songs that authorities had reviewed. As a result, the organizer received a fine and was reprimanded. 

“No one believes this absurd reason. I think it was just an act of revenge by the authorities against Khank Ly for her performance of the song “Gia tai cua me” – a beautiful song with anti-war spirit and great humane values,” Germany-based writer Vo Thi Hao said about the cancellation.

This picture taken on July 28, 2014 shows a poster featuring an upcoming live performance by well-known exiled Vietnamese singer Khanh Ly in downtown Hanoi. Credit: AFP
This picture taken on July 28, 2014 shows a poster featuring an upcoming live performance by well-known exiled Vietnamese singer Khanh Ly in downtown Hanoi. Credit: AFP
Nguyen Huu Vinh, Chairman of Vietnam Independent Journalists’ Association, cited other examples where authorities used similar tactics to halt events they did not approve of. In 2016, he said that Hanoi police officers disguised themselves as tile cutting workers working at a monument to stop dissidents from commemorating the 74 soldiers of the former Republic of Vietnam who were killed while protecting the Paracel Islands in fighting with China in 1974.

Eight years ago, an electricity cut was also used as the reason to close an exhibition about notorious land reform policies in Vietnam’s north in the 1950s. According to Nguyen Huu Vinh, the exhibition was actually shut down because of the heavy presence of those who had suffered from injustice during the campaign.

Some state media outlets initially ran reports questioning the show’s cancellation, but those articles were quickly taken offline. 

Vietnam’s Transport Newspaper said that the organizer of this program had suffered a loss of 1.5 billion Vietnamese dong (US$63,000). 

The Young People newspaper ran an article titled "Stopping Khanh Ly's live show in Hanoi: What do the organizers have to say?" while the Labor newspaper's headline read: "Why was the VND 2 billion show of Khanh Ly, Duc Tuan, Cam Van in Hanoi canceled?"

The critical articles could no longer be found online as of Sept. 25.

Musician Tuan Khanh from Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City told RFA that this recent incident was just an example of how the Vietnamese government saw viewed Khanh Ly, and that he viewed it was impossible for one person to coordinate this restriction by themselves. 

In addition to Hanoi and Hai Phong, Khanh Ly’s shows in other cities, including the central city of Hue and the northern city of Hung Yen, have also been canceled.

Translated by Anna Vu. Written by Nawar Nemeh.

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