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King of Tires in Hanoi: Going to Prison for Being a "Bourgeois"

Updated on April 2, 2019
Tuan Leminh profile image

An enthusiast for economic development and political issues in Vietnam.

Mr. Chan was a farmer in Nga Son district, Thanh Hoa province. He is strenuous and hard working but still in poverty. In 1954, he decided to sell his water lily pond, leaving half of the money for his wife and children. The other half he brought to Hanoi with a plan to become rich.

At first, Mr. Chan applied for a rubber slipper production facility, which makes its products from broken automobile tires. With a diligent accumulating, he opened a small shop and took his wife and children to Hanoi. The first incident occurred when the earthen wall of the house collapsed, causing the pile of scrap tires to roll out to the street. Immediately, Mr. Chan was attributed to the emerging bourgeois. His property was confiscated and he had to go to a rehabilitation center. Fortunately, only a few days later, he was released. But that event poses a question that will follow him all life:

"I wonder why the tenant spends all day stripping off his tires, doesn't dare to eat enough, wear the cheapest type of clothes, but he was listed as a bourgeois?"

The lose of asset and the days of imprisonment aren't enough to dampen his determination to make a successful business. Besides, at home there are his wife and 10 children, 4 adopted children, how to "dare" to be discouraged.

Once, Mr. Chan had to go around department stores to find a replacement for the broken pens of his children. At that time, this is a kind of exclusive goods by the state, sold in black market only. He was angry, disassembled his pen to study and realized that he make one himself. So he switched to pen production. The pen made by him resembles the model of Truong Son pen, not labeled, from recycled plastic waste, but the quality is still good. Mr. Chan registered this model to the District Industry Department, so that he can produces them officially. His pens was good, cheap, sold everywhere. Every batches were sold out immediately after produced.

When his business was being prosperous, the case of Z30 happened. Hoan Kiem district finance department visited his house in... Ba Dinh district, checked production registration. Mr. Chan presented the full papers but still confiscated all tools, materials and products. He complained... Then Ba Dinh police came and confiscated all the motor, pen mold, some broken straps, rubber, and thousands of pen details. Mr. Chan was charged with storing and speculating, illegally producing, and being sentenced to 30 months in prison. He continued to make petitions.

In the appeal court on May 25, 1972, Supreme People's Court declared that he only committed speculation, which means that he was given a fine of only one hundred dong. So it turned out that Mr. Chan was imprisoned for two and a half years because of the miscarriage of justice!

Losing all assets, he had to dig lotus roots for food, worked as a sanitation worker, went to the road fixing bicycles. At night, he received bicycle tubes from the rubber factory to patch. But... he found out that the state plastic patches' quality was very low, so he tinkered and made a better plastic patches. His customers were crowded again.

Because of crowded customers, in early 1974, Ba Dinh police went to the house, confiscated and arrested people. He was imprisoned in the district, for the reason "who has a too prosperous business, there must be fraud". On March 30, 1974, they released him. At that time he was 50 years old. Perhaps due to the high age, plus the never-ending shocks, he went to sell tea five years later.

But the fate with tires again found him in 1979. Then in 1980, Quyet Thang tire brand of Mr. Chan was born. Mr. Chan's tires could be used for three years while the tires of Gold Star rubber factory could be used for only less than six months. In those years, his tires were famous all over the country, producing over 2,000 pairs per year.

In 1983, Quyet Thang tire was awarded the Bronze Medal at Giang Vo Exhibition Fair, Mr. Chan was called "King of Tires". He expanded production facilities, bought all landfills of Sao Vang rubber factory, including tires and scrap rubber. His family's material yard is located in Thanh Cong market now, the yard always has hundreds of tons of raw materials.

There is a world-class automobile tire manufacturer, based in France, appointing representatives to meet "tire king" Nguyen Van Chan, to find business cooperation opportunities, because he knew the exclusive know-hows.

But a person with many "criminal records" like him must of course be the object of the police visit when becoming rich. In early July 1983, Mr. Chan was inspected and for three days in a row, "witnessed by hundreds of officials from all sectors and thousands of curious people, Mr. Chan and his children had to manipulate the process of making making tires from scrap rubber”. Unable to find a fault, the polices accused him of "arbitrarily production" as "disturbing" the economy in which all products were planned by the state, assigned targets for citizens from production to consumption.

On August 27, 1983, the army, police, procuracies, and the Ba Dinh district committee sealed off the house and workshop of the tire king, then confiscated all houses and tire manufacture factories. At the same time, Mr. Chan was arrested. His wife and children had to live on the sidewalk.

This time, different from the previous times, Mr. Chan fled, wandered, to avoid being unfairly imprisoned. And ironically, after the house and property were collected, in September 1983, the "Tire King" family still received an invitation to receive a medal for Quyet Thang tire.

Mr. Chan, complaining all over the place, only came home after his wife and children had issued a petition, thus avoiding having to go to jail again. Back home, the letter he wrote was stacked, more than 40 domestic newspapers and many foreign newspapers reported about him.

In the face of public pressure, the Supreme People's Procuratorate decided to suspend the case, requesting the return of all property and houses to the "Tire King". But the police again decided to exempt. Mr. Chan continued to sue: "The exemption is guilty but waived, but what are my sins?". He continues to sue again and again.

At the end of 1985, the Supreme People's Procuratorate made a decision to cancel the exemption decision of the Hanoi Police Department, decided to suspend the investigation, admitted that Mr. Chan was innocent and requested to return the property to his family. .

To be vindicated, but the difficulties did not stop there. It was only 7 years later that the family received their house (but could not make a land use rights certificate). 10 years later, his family received a part of property.

The legend of the tire king accompanied the image of his wife - the "kneeling woman" who followed him during the bitter days. The most beautiful point in their life is probably that their children are still fully educated, have graduated from high school, and have graduated from university. For me, Mr. Chan is not only a tire king legend, but also a figure of perseverance.

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