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Chau Van Liem - a patriotic teacher and staunch communist of his native Can Tho homeland
Date: 23/11/2023

Comrade Chau Van Liem was a patriotic teacher and a staunch communist. Although his revolutionary career was short-lived, Comrade Liem made great contributions and tirelessly struggled for the cause of national liberation.
Burning incense at the Shrine of Chau Van Liem (Thoi Lai District). Photo: DUY KHOI.

Comrade Chau Van Liem was born on June 29, 1902, in Thoi Thanh village, O Mon district, Can Tho province (now Thoi Thanh commune, Thoi Lai district, Can Tho city). In his childhood, he was taught Chinese characters by his grandfather Chau Van Trinh, and father Chau Khac Chan; later a teacher from Quang Ngai province came to teach him Chinese characters and traditional Chinese medicine. At age 10, he began learning the Vietnamese alphabet. After completing primary schooling at home, he was sent by his parents to the boarding school in Can Tho (later renamed Collège de CanTho, Phan Thanh Gian High School, and now Châu Văn Liêm High School), together with comrades Le Van So and Tran Ngoc Que.

After passing the final examination (Diplôme), on July 3, 1922, Chau Van Liem enrolled in the Indochina School of Education in Saigon. Here, he self-studied and followed domestic and international developments by reading progressive books and newspapers available publicly or secretly. He particularly liked articles by Comrade Nguyen Ai Quoc in newspapers like "Nguoi cung kho" and "Thanh nien". These works opened his vision to the broad path of revolution and national liberation struggle. He also regularly expressed his personal views to patriotic youths like Nguyen An Ninh and Pham Quang Quoi about an ideal society, wanting to contribute to enriching the culture of the Vietnamese nation with its precious traditions.

In 1924, after graduating from the Indochina School of Education, he was transferred to teach in Long Xuyen province. After teaching for one year at the Long Xuyen Primary School, in the 1926-1927 school year, Teacher Chau Van Liem was transferred to Long Dien School in Cho Thu district (now in An Giang province). Here, Teacher Chau Van Liem incorporated revolutionary guidelines into his lessons on culture. He was also close to students and the people, propagating against the crimes of the French colonists and their lackeys, educating the spirit of patriotism, and heroic traditions of resistance to oppression and foreign invasion of the nation. The teacher often read poems calling for patriotism and the indomitable fighting spirit of youth, or denouncing the forced conscription to serve as cannon fodder for the French in World War 1 (1914-1918) such as:

"Tau Tay ong khoi bang đong, (The Western steamships have smokestacks made of copper)

Trach ai cuong buc bat chong toi đi. (Who forced my husband to be conscripted away.)

Dau long nhung noi xiet chi, (It pains the heart these bitter sorrows)

Ngay di thi co, ngay ve thi khong”. (There is a day of departure and no day of return)

Not only that, the teacher also wrote poems proudly of the nation's long literary traditions:

"Song Nhi, nui Nung, (The Nhi River and Nung Mount)

Nuoc bon nghin nam van hien. (A land with four thousand years of literature)

Con than chau thanh, (Descendants of gods, grandchildren of sages)

Dan hai muoi trieu dong bao”. (Twenty million fellow countrymen)

Or satirizing the superstitious rituals of village officials:

"Nuc cuoi lu day lay heo quay, (Ridiculous those who prostrate to a grilled pig)

Cung goi rang minh cung dat dai. (Calling it worshipping the land)

Den sap, lu huong trung day truoc, (Candles and incense lined up front)

Khan den, ao rong bua hang hai. (Black kerchiefs, loose robes wrapped around twice)

Le sanh, nhac xuong quy "hang", "bai", (Music and kneeling to "hong", "bai",)

Huong chuc khoanh tay lay mop dai. (The incense master folding hands bowing deeply)

Co phai than tien ve day nhi? (Could it be the gods have come down?)

Hay la lay ay, lay… heo quay?" (Or is it bowing to, bowing to... a grilled pig?"

At the same time, Comrade Liem led the unification of the My Luong and Long Dien football teams, fostering unity among the people of the two villages and not allowing the colonialists to divide and exploit [them]. Clearly, Teacher Chau Van Liem was one of the revolutionary fighters who knew how to use literature and writing as weapons to express ideas, propagate ideals, and "evoke and educate the spirit of national pride in fellow countrymen and comrades, especially the younger generations" (according to the book "Chau Van Liem, His Life and Career" by Vu Lan - Phuong Hanh, published by the National Politics Publishing House and Can Tho Province Party Committee in 1995).

In June 1925, Comrade Nguyen Ai Quoc established the Vietnamese Revolutionary Youth Association, with its central organ called the Central Committee based in Guangzhou, China. The Thanh Nien (Youth) newspaper and the book “Duong Kach menh” (The Path to Revolution) provided theoretical foundations and were used for propaganda among the people. In 1928, the Vietnamese Revolutionary Youth Association organized the "Proletarianization" movement, sending members to infiltrate mines, factories, and plantations. The Association built grassroots organizations across the country and by 1929 had around 1,700 members. In August 1927, the Central Committee of the Vietnamese Revolutionary Youth Association sent Comrade Nguyen Ngoc Ba to Long Xuyen province to conduct activities and seek out Teacher Chau Van Liem and other patriotic youth of like mind. By the end of 1927, Teacher Liem and Comrade Ung Van Khiem had joined the Vietnamese Revolutionary Youth Association. They were among the earliest members of the Association in Long Xuyen-Chau Doc province. Soon after, Teacher Liem was put in charge of the first branch of the Vietnamese Revolutionary Youth Association in Long Xuyen, comprising three comrades: Chau Van Liem, Bui Trung Pham, and Lam Van Can. By February 1928, Teacher Chau Van Liem was appointed Secretary of the Provincial Committee of the Association in Long Xuyen province. By joining the Vietnamese Revolutionary Youth Association and later becoming Secretary of the Provincial Committee, Teacher Chau Van Liem became a political activist in the patriotic revolutionary movement in Vietnam in the late 1920s.

In February 1929, the Southern Region Youth Committee was re-established under Comrade Pham Van Dong as Secretary. In March 1929, Comrade Chau Van Liem was added to the Standing Committee of the Southern Region Youth Committee, after which he was sent to represent the Committee at the Congress of the Vietnamese Revolutionary Youth Association in Hong Kong (China). After 5 months of activities abroad, he returned home with other comrades to convene the most active members of the Vietnamese Revolutionary Youth Association across provinces back to Saigon. On August 7, 1929, a conference of around 30 delegates chaired by Comrade Chau Van Liem officially announced the reorganization of part of the Vietnamese Revolutionary Youth Association organization to establish a new Party - the An Nam Communist Party. With this event, Comrade Chau Van Liem truly became the highest leader of the Communist Party organization in the Southern Region. From the Southern Region Youth Committee of the Vietnamese Revolutionary Youth Association to the An Nam Communist Party, history recognizes Comrade Chau Van Liem as one of the founders of one of the three precursor organizations of the Communist Party of Vietnam. This was his important contribution to the movement to establish the Party.

On January 1st, 1930, the Indochinese Communist League was established, operating in Central Vietnam. Thus, there were three separate Communist organizations, proving that the conditions for the establishment of the Communist Party of Vietnam had ripened. Comrade Chau Van Liem constantly sought opportunities to unify the domestic Communist organizations into a single party to lead the Vietnamese revolutionary movement. At that time, he received a summons letter from Comrade Vuong (Nguyen Ai Quoc) from Hong Kong (China), inviting representatives of Communist organizations to attend a unity conference. Comrade Chau Van Liem and Nguyen Thieu hastily left Saigon to head directly to the appointed meeting point.

The conference was chaired by Nguyen Ai Quoc, taking place in Cuu Long (Hong Kong, China) from January 6th to February 8th, 1930. Attending the conference were Comrades Trinh Dinh Cuu and Nguyen Duc Cang as representatives of the Indochinese Communist Party; Comrades Chau Van Liem and Nguyen Thieu as representatives of the An Nam Communist Party; Comrades Le Hong Son and Ho Tung Mau as overseas leaders and Comrade Vuong. The conference unanimously agreed to unify the Communist organizations into a single party, taking the name Communist Party of Vietnam. It adopted the Fundamental Principles and Brief Strategy (the Party's first political platform) drafted by Nguyen Ai Quoc. Thus, Comrade Chau Van Liem was one of the founding members of the Party. His practical activities and those of his comrades in the An Nam Communist Party made important contributions to the process of establishing a single ruling party, ending the crisis period in the national salvation orientation.

In early March 1930, after completing the task of unifying the Party organization in the South, the Southern Regional Committee decided to appoint Comrade Nguyen Thieu as Secretary of the My Tho - Ben Tre - Ca Mau Joint Provincial Party Committee, and Comrade Chau Van Liem as Secretary of the Cho Lon - Gia Dinh Joint Provincial Party Committee, with the Regional Committee Secretary position held by a representative of the Indochinese Communist Party, Comrade Ngo Gia Tu. Comrade Chau Van Liem taking on the role of Secretary of the Cho Lon - Gia Dinh Joint Provincial Party Committee left for posterity the image of a Communist fighter who fought his whole life for the sole purpose of the Party and the people, without regard for personal position, without narrow-mindedness, without discrimination between North and South (according to "Chau Van Liem, His Life and Career").

On May 1st, 1930, International Workers' Day, to welcome the establishment of the Communist Party of Vietnam, the people across the country struggled to implement many progressive policies for each class. In Cho Lon, under the leadership of Comrade Chau Van Liem and the Provincial Party Committee, demonstrations took place vigorously, especially the struggle of the people of Duc Hoa district which broke out on June 4th, 1930. From four directions: Huu Thanh, Binh Ta, Hoa Khanh, and My Hanh with neat ranks marching to the district chief's residence. Those at the front raised the hammer and sickle high, chanting demands as they marched. The district chief sent people to the province to request reinforcements, while trying to appease the demonstration group to clearly state their demands. Comrade Chau Van Liem stepped out of the ranks, facing the district chief, clearly stating the demands while rallying the demonstration group to chant slogans in unison, forcing the district chief to accept the demands (according to "Precious Gems", Vol. 1, Party History Research Department, Publicity and Education Department of Can Tho Province Party Committee, 1995). At that time, provincial and district soldiers were deployed in lines facing the demonstrating crowd, aiming guns at them. The police inspector Dreuil from the Saigon Police Department ordered firing upon the demonstration group, in which Comrade Chau Van Liem was shot. Comrade fell at only 28 years old, leaving the entire Party and people with immense loss and infinite sorrow.

Comrade Chau Van Liem was an outstanding son of Can Tho with its rich traditional homeland, who devoted his entire life and made great and important contributions to our country's revolutionary cause, especially during the turning point period of the Vietnamese revolution.

Source: Can Tho News - Translated by Hoang Dat

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