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A Joke On Facebook Puts American Expatriate At Odds With Vietnam

A photo taken in 2013 shows women in traditional dress holding framed portraits of the late Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap as they line up to pay final respects to him at his residence in Hanoi.
Hoang Dinh Nam
AFP/Getty Images
A photo taken in 2013 shows women in traditional dress holding framed portraits of the late Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap as they line up to pay final respects to him at his residence in Hanoi.

Editor's note:This story contains graphic language.

A U.S. expatriate living in Vietnam has run afoul of its communist government and could face criminal charges for a joke posted online about a revered national hero.

Dan Hauer, who teaches English in Hanoi, is married to a local woman and speaks fluent Vietnamese, reportedly has a large following on social media for his popular language videos and observations about Vietnamese and Western culture.

However, a joke he posted about Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, who led Vietnamese communist forces against the French and later Americans, has not gone over well. Giap died in 2013 at age 102 and was mourned in an elaborate state funeral.

The comment on Facebook reportedly came last week as a riposte to someone who had said he would get a Vietnamese flag tattoo if the country's under-23s soccer team won the Asian Cup.

According to the BBC, Hauer replied: "that was nothing - after a Vietnamese athlete recently won a gold medal, he said, he'd got a penis piercing making his testicles resemble Gen Giap."

The comment drew swift condemnation and according to The Associated Press, many people began calling for his deportation.

The BBC reports: "The grandson of Gen Giap also publicly shared his anger about the post, initially in a strongly worded comment and which he later replaced with a more toned down one saying "millions of people who love him [Gen Giap] felt the anger caused by this foreigner's insult."

In a video clip posted on his Facebook page, Hauer said, "he did not think that the Vietnamese would take his jokes seriously," the AP writes.

"Dan just wants everybody to understand that Dan has no intention whatsoever to vilify Vietnam or vilify Vo Nguyen Giap," Hauer said in on the video in Vietnamese, according to AP. "Dan [learned] a lesson to be careful in using names and images of others in a joke, particularly famous Vietnamese historical figures."

Vietnam's Ministry of Information and Communication said Tuesday that Hauer had apologized to Giap's family and the country as a whole. State media said he could be fined up to $2,200 but that a final decision on his fate would depend on his behavior, the news agency reports.

Hauer declined to comment publicly, but his wife, Le Thi Hau, was quoted as saying that she had received threats via telephone and text and that English learning centers had terminated contracts with her husband following the incident.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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