In surprise crackdown, Doan Ngoc Hai brings back ‘sidewalk clearing’ campaign in Saigon

The District 1 deputy chairman took his team back to the streets after a four-month break

Doan Ngoc Hai (second right) is pictured during a 'sidewalk clearance' crackdown in Ho Chi Minh City on August 7, 2017. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Doan Ngoc Hai, deputy chairman of Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1, led the first ‘sidewalk clearance’ campaign crackdown in four months on Monday night, astounding not only the public but also ward-level officials.

Hai, the leader of the now famous campaign aiming to keep the streets in District 1 clean and clear, had not instructed any crackdowns since late March before last night’s raid, unbeknownst to administrators of wards in the district.

The campaign leader instructed police officers to give fines to multiple cars and taxis that were illegally parked on sidewalks. Many eateries also had their tables and chairs confiscated for occupying the pavements.

Begun earlier this year, Hai’s campaign had effectively made streets across District 1 clean and clear, and inspired other neighborhoods in Ho Chi Minh City to follow suit, until it suddenly ended in late March.

Members of the 'sidewalk clearance' team confiscate tables and chairs of an eatery.
Members of the 'sidewalk clearance' team confiscate tables and chairs of an eatery.

Hai’s surprise crackdown came only three days after he called on Ho Chi Minh City chairman Nguyen Thanh Phong to give him full authority to continue his campaign with even more control.

Speaking at a meeting with the city’s chairman on Friday, Hai said he should be “fully authorized to penalize any violators, even public officials” as it is the only way for him to fulfill his commitment to “make the sidewalks of District 1 completely free from being illegally occupied.”

Chairman Phong did not respond directly to Hai’s request, saying that he had put the issue forward to the wrong place.

“These issues should be discussed in a different meeting between the District 1 Party Committee and the municipal administration,” Phong said.

“This meeting is not a forum where you can complain about issues like ‘I want to do this job but why am I assigned another task?’”

It is unclear if Hai will continue to lead further crackdowns if he is not given the full authorization he desires.

Hai’s campaign was put into effect on 134 streets across District 1 and eventually made positive impacts on 116 of them, or 86 percent, according to the district administration.

District 1 chairman Tran The Thuan has said the majority of local businesses have been willing to prevent their operations from encroaching on public space without the use of force by authorities, while the number of violations had also dropped significantly.

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