The Annamite prisoner is free
  • | | September 13, 2010 09:18 AM

Nguyen Ai Quoc’s appeal was finally presented to the Privy Council in London in December 1931, while he continued his long wait in Hong Kong’s Central prison.

>>Part 1: Paris, my two worlds
>>Part 2: A journey in search of freedom
>>Part 3: Nguyen the Patriot
>>Part 4: Indochina and little emperors
>>Part 5: The rise of patriotism
>>Part 6: Finding a compass
>>Part 7:
Young Ho Chi Minh with Grand Chef Escoffier
>>Part 8:
Young Ho Chi Minh in America
>>Part 9:
Ho Chi Minh versus Albert Sarraut
>>Part 10: The path of destiny
>>Part 11: Moscow’s resolution on Indochina
>>Part 12: Lenin and Peoples of the East
>>Part 13: From Moscow to Canton
>>Part 14: A cross-cultural political training school
>>Part 15: Hong Kong, City without Gates
>>Part 16: "I’ll defend you because of honor, not for money"

Quoc in a silk gown made by Rosa Loseby

It was not until the summer of 1932 that Quoc met D.N. Pritts, who became his legal council. Frank Loseby had offered to pay for the legal fees himself and he was pleased with the choice of Pritts by the Privy Council. Having followed the situation in Indochina, Pritts was well informed of the continued exploitation and persecution of the natives by the French. He was widely regarded for his support of those being suppressed and in need of justice. Pritt was also interested in the political transition and developments in the Soviet Union. By the time he met the future leader of Viet Nam, he had already written a book about Soviet law and an autobiography on left-wing politics.

Quoc felt that D.N. Pritts understood him and his ongoing ordeal. But the court case in London presented a huge challenge to Pritts. The entire situation was complicated by the many demands from all parties involved, and especially from the French. The legal proceedings revealed contradictions and disagreements within the Hong Kong authorities, the Foreign Office, and the British government. Unable to resolve the conflicts, Pritt sensed that an appeal for Quoc to become a resident in England (and so avoid further pursuit by the French) would not likely to succeed. But at least he was able to have the matter settled without a public trial. A compromise was reached that would save his client further delay and mental agony. He would simply be released as a free man in Hong Kong. Quoc left the prison’s hospital on December 28, 1932 with Frank Loseby. *

Nguyen Ai Quoc was given twenty-one days to leave Hong Kong territory. He was invited to stay with the Losebys during the first week. To prevent being identified by the police, Quoc decided to grow a beard and to dress as a traditional Confucian scholar in public places. Rosa Loseby sewed a long Chinese silk gown for him. A few days later the Losebys booked a room for Quoc at the YMCA and Rosa brought him lunch each day. In the evening, Frank would meet him at a vacant lot near the YMCA and the two pretended to talk about a working contract. Then Quoc would be accompanied by Frank to his house for a quiet dinner. The Losebys felt conscious about the presence of their maid and of possible gossip and they took extreme care of Quoc’s appearance while in their home each evening.

After dinner, Frank would drive Quoc back to the YMCA. Before dropping him off, he would drive up and down the hills, and “zigzagging through the city so anyone following us would lose his way”, said Frank Loseby.

To mislead the Sûreté Générale, the Losebys sent out the word that Nguyen Ai Quoc had died of tuberculosis in the hospital. The Comintern made a public announcement about his death. Rosa Loseby arranged for him to board a ship for Singapore, arriving on June 6, 1933. However, the Hong Kong authorities had sent a secret cable to the police in Singapore and he was immediately sent back to Hong Kong.

He was again detained at Victoria Prison on the grounds that he had arrived without proper papers. Frank Loseby wrote, “That night I was sitting at my desk until it passed midnight. I was thinking about what to do. Then my wife and I found a solution. The next morning I went to see Governor William Peel and requested that Sung Man Cho be allowed to travel to Amoy Island. I would personally arrange a ship for him. The following day the Governor sent his order to release Sung Man Cho, but he was concerned about the security check at the port by Hong Kong police.”

The Losebys arranged for Quoc to board a Japanese ship passing by Hong Kong on January 25 but not coming in to dock there. The question was how to get out of the harbor to join the passing ship without encountering the Hong Kong harbor police. Only one boat in Hong Kong could achieve that with any certainty: the Governor’s own launch.

After discreet discussions involving the Governor’s wife and the Colonial Secretary’s wife, this was unofficially arranged and Quoc was transported safely out to sea, disguised as a businessman in a smart suit provided by the Losebys. An “interpreter” was to accompany him to ensure his safe boarding of the ship. After a short voyage, Quoc would disembark at the Chinese island of Amoy. The inhabitants on this island were not subject to either the British or the French legal system.

Life on Amoy was uneventful for Quoc. But the Hong Kong media would not give up the story, even though they knew nothing about his escape. To calm down the public, the Losebys spread further the news that Nguyen Ai Quoc had died. Picking up the story. L’Opinion printed an article about his death with a photo and an obituary. In Moscow, university students organized a memorial service for him.

Quoc decided to leave Amoy and was hoping to board a Russian ship from Shanghai to Vladivostok. How he got to Shanghai from Amoy, Quoc never told anybody, but he had friends in Amoy who are likely to have helped. Given the French persistence, the death sentence and the ransom, he felt that Russia was the only safe place for him. He was also made aware of Japanese warships, American warships, French warships, and British warships -- all were present around the China Sea.

Arriving in Shanghai, Quoc didn’t know anyone who could help arrange for him to board a Russian ship. He had already lost his contact with the International Communist Party. He continued to disguise himself as a businessman, wearing the same suit the Losebys had bought him. At night he would wash it, then wear it again the next morning. He had to stay in a hotel and was running out of money. Every day he ate potatoes boiled in a small tin box and drank boiled water.

One day he was reading the local newspaper and learned that a European anti-war delegation had arrived in Shanghai. Among the list of representatives, he found the name Paul Vaillant-Couturier. But his delight was restrained as he did not know how to get in touch with his old friend from Paris days. Since he knew the house of Madame Sun Yat-sen, he thought of asking her for help. Quickly, he wrote a note to Couturier and dropped it in her mailbox. The next day he was contacted by Couturier, whose first words were, “Oh my God! Nguyen, you are still living. I thought they had buried you!”

Couturier made an arrangement for him with a Russian ship, heading for Vladivostok. Quoc felt a great relief once he got on board. Approaching land, as the white mountains began to appear on the horizon, he recognized the places he had visited seven years earlier. Upon arriving in Russia, he changed his name to Linop.

When Quoc was released from the hospital prison ward in December 1932, he gave the manuscript of his philosophy book to the Losebys for safe keeping. In January 1942, when Frank, Rosa, and Patricia were taken into Stanley Prison by the Japanese invading forces, their home was raided and Quoc’s manuscript was among items destroyed. The Loseby lost all their personal possessions. Suffering a terrible ordeal during their years in prison, they were finally released in August 1945. Quoc got get in touch with them in 1956, when he was President of North Viet Nam. The Losebys were invited to Ha Noi.


Leave your comment on this story