“It was very surreal,” he tells Sixth Tone. “These first people — many of them families — were coming directly across the South China Sea. The journey was long, so they were malnourished and very dehydrated.”
It was the beginning of a wave of migration that would upend countless lives. As the North Vietnamese army finally conquered the South, vast numbers of refugees took to the sea in the hope of finding sanctuary in Hong Kong, which was then under British rule. Nearly 200,000 Vietnamese would seek asylum in the city over the following years. Thousands more died trying to make the journey.