There has been widespread shock and dismay following the presentation of a silver medal to Hong Quang Minh, also known as Minh Beo or Fat Minh, at the closing ceremony of the 2021 National Drama Festival in Ho Chi Minh City on January 17.

Minh Beo received the honor for his role in the play ‘Thi The Thu Tu,’ where he played a criminal disguised as a close friend of a policeman’s family while evading an international warrant.

In 2016, Minh Beo was sentenced to 18 months in prison in the U.S. for sexually assaulting a young boy and attempting to commit a lewd act upon a fictitious minor.

The Orange County District Attorney in California stated that he was convicted of one felony count of oral copulation of a minor and one felony count of attempting to commit a lewd act upon a child under the age of 14 in a press release on August 11, 2016.

Minh Beo had been detained since his arrest in late March 2016 after a 16-year-old boy reported being sexually assaulted by him during an audition for a video project.

The Garden Grove Police Department (GGPD) then had an undercover officer pose as a fictitious teenager to communicate with Minh Beo while the investigation continued.

Minh Beo quickly arranged a meeting with the officer, whom he believed to be a minor, during which he planned to engage in oral copulation.

The defendant was subsequently arrested by GGPD.

In January 2017, Minh Beo was deported back to Ho Chi Minh City from the U.S. after serving half of his 18-month prison term.

At that time, the Department of Culture and Sports in Ho Chi Minh City advised him to refrain from participating in performance activities to avoid public dismay over his crimes.

Minh Beo performs in the play titled ‘Thi The Thu Tu.’ Photo: Linh Doan / Tuoi Tre

Minh Beo performs in the play titled ‘Thi The Thu Tu.’ Photo: Linh Doan / Tuoi Tre

‘It is normal’

Recent discussions have shown a divided opinion among the Vietnamese public regarding the award presentation, with many opposing Minh Beo’s 2021 accolade due to his past crimes, while others support the idea that he should be given a chance to live and work.

Tran Huong Duong, the Deputy Director of the Department of Performing Arts and head of the festival’s organizing committee, stated that Minh Beo’s company participated in the theater festival with approval from the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Culture and Sports.

According to Duong, the entertainer’s medal was awarded by the festival’s jury based on the quality of his work.

“Officially, state agencies do not have any recommendations on artist Minh Beo continuing his work,” he said.

“Currently, Minh Beo and his company are not breaking any laws. They were eligible to participate in the festival, and it is normal for them to win an award if their work meets certain standards.”

Duong also highlighted that Vietnamese moral tradition allows for redemption for those who have lost their way.

“We have always emphasized the educative effect of art,” Duong said.

“So why should we push an artist who made a mistake into a dead end while he is working hard to serve society?

“Should we choose to rehabilitate a person or corner them into a dead end?”

When asked if honoring Minh Beo contradicted the recent code of conduct issued by the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, Duong stated that the code only applies to artists who act and speak in violation of the code at present, “except for someone who has already completed their legal penalty nearly ten years ago.”

He emphasized that authorities want to focus on supporting artists in their work after two years of COVID-19, rather than giving in to public outcry.

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