American teacher wants to light incense for Vietnam’s revered general after vulgar comment

By Hoang Thuy   January 30, 2018 | 05:03 pm PT
Authorities would decide on the punishment for Daniel Hauer based on the amends he is going to make.

An American citizen working as an English teacher in Hanoi has presented himself to information authorities after being summoned over offensive, law-violating remarks he had posted on Facebook.

In the summons issued last Friday, Daniel Hauer was required to meet the authorities and explain why he had posted an offensive Facebook comment mentioning Vietnam's late, well-respected general Vo Nguyen Giap last Thursday, as well as an allegedly insincere apology video afterwards.

He fully complied with authorities' requests at the meeting on Tuesday afternoon, according to Le Quang Tu Do, deputy head of the Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information (ABEI).

At the meeting, Hauer admitted that his Facebook comment was an unintentionally harmful joke and expressed deep remorse for having posted it. His Vietnamese wife was the first to criticize him upon seeing the comment, resulting in him immediately removing it and making the apology video.

Regarding his other comments that seemed to imply the apology was insincere, Hauer claimed he was feeling irritated as many kept commenting on Facebook, calling and texting to insult and threaten him as well as his family.

To make amends, Hauer asked to be allowed to visit General Giap's house to light incense for the late general and personally apologize to his family. Additionally, he would issue a public apology on newspapers and provide free English lessons online.

Daniel Hauer in a screenshot taken from his apology video.

Daniel Hauer in a screenshot taken from his apology video.

ABEI has agreed with Hauer's proposed measures and instructed him to remove all the violating comments, as well as to promise not to repeat his violations. ABEI would evaluate his subsequent actions before deciding on a punishment.

"In our opinion, the most important thing is to make up for the mistakes and to sincerely apologize. Only then will we discuss form of punishment," Do said.

Based on this evaluation, Hauer could receive a caution, a warning or a fine. In Vietnam, the fine for insulting a national hero is VND70-100 million ($3,100-4,400), but it is halved to VND35-50 million if the offender is an individual.

Speaking to the press, Do explained that the meeting was delayed to the afternoon due to Hauer not receiving the initial summons letter. While the letter was sent to his address, he had already moved out earlier as many people had been coming to threaten, insult him or throw waste at the house.

Do stressed that while Hauer's action was wrong, people should not express their disagreements with actions that are even more wrong, such as threatening his family.

"We need to be generous and not offend his innocent relatives, such as his 6-month-old baby."

Hauer is a well-known English teacher in Vietnam with nearly 112,000 followers on Facebook and over 1 million subscribers on YouTube. He however included the name of General Giap in an offensive comment posted in a Facebook group on January 25. General Giap was the architect behind Vietnam's victory over the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, and a 2-day national funeral was held upon his death in 2013.

The comment quickly resulted in a public backlash with people calling for Hauer to stop teaching or even to be deported from Vietnam, prompting him to issue an apology. Many people however found his apology insincere as he later labeled his critics as "crazy nationalists" in a private Facebook group.

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