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SCSC - Recently during my visit home, I watched a documentary on VOV channel which was about a women named Mai Kim Quy whose birth certificate was granted by the French authority in Hoang Sa.

The story started with Ms Mai Thi Phi who was born in 1936. She used to work as a lecturer at the Biology Faculty of Ha Noi Pedagogical University and Ho Chi Minh City University of Agriculture and Forestry; Ms Mai Thi Phuong was born in 1937 and used to work as a Russian teacher in Tran Phu Gifted High School, Hai Phong. They followed their father to reside in Hoang Sa.

Upon the completion of the French meteorological station in Hoang Sa, Mr. Mai Xuan Tap, who received training on meteorological radio in France, was sent to work in this station from 1938 to 1941. He brought his wife and two daughters, Mai Thi Phi and Mai Thi Phuong with him.

During their residence in Hoang Sa, Mr. Mai Xuan Tap and his wife had another daughter who they named Mai Kim Quy. It was a special name to remind them of the days they lived in Hoang Sa, where there were a lot of turtles. Ms Mai Kim Quy’s birth certificate was issued in Hoang Sa and preserved by the family and her two sisters (Mai Thi Phi, Mai Thi Phuong) carefully over the past 75 years. Her family decided to present it to the authority, hoping this could help with defending Viet Nam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa which was forcefully occupied by China in 1974.

Mai Kim Quy’s birth certificate included one main copy and one add - on, both were original ones, with stamp of the French administrative agency in Hoang Sa. In the certificate, it was clearly stated that ‘Ms Mai Kim Quy is the daughter of Mr. Mai Xuan Tap and Ms. Nguyen Thi Thang, born at 15: 00 on 07 December 1939 on Hoang Sa (Pattle) Island, belonged to Luoi Liem island chain of Hoang Sa archipelago. Witnessed by doctor Nguyen Tang Chuan and Mr. Do Duc Mui, Head of the island’s radio station. The birth certificate was issued by the French administrative agency in Luoi Liem (Crescent) group, Hoang Sa archipelago, An Nam Kingdom on 28 June 1940, with signature of administrative officer and red stamp’. Upon returning to the mainland from Hoang Sa, Ms Quy lived in Phu Tho and died at two years old.

The content of the birth certificate was relevant with past materials about the existence of a meteorological station on Hoang Sa island and its operation under the French occupation. The birth certificate was of great legal value in asserting Viet Nam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa.

The issuance of the birth certificate on the island demonstrated a high level of French administration over Hoang Sa at that time. This was the first time members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ delegation as well as we reporters got to see a stamp of a French administrative agency on the island.

Apart from Ms. Mai Kim Quy’s birth certificate, Ms Mai Thi Phi and Mai Thi Phuong’s families also stored some family photos of Mr. Mai Xuan Tap and officers at the Hoang Sa Meteorology station, photo of all those who worked at the station; wife and children of Mr. Do Duc Mui (witness of Ms. Mai Kim Quy’s birth certificate), picture of Mai Kim Quy and her sisters Mai Thi Phi, Mai Thi Phuong. These black and white photos were well - preserved.

Ms Mai Thi Phuong and Phi were two rare witnesses who lived on Hoang Sa island by the end of the 30s. It was a regret that they came to Hoang Sa when they were too small so they could not remember clearly that time. However, the sunny and windy island of Hoang Sa was still clear in their mind. Ms Phuong and Phi spoke French very well, they said: ‘Pattle island in our memory was a beautiful island. The sand was white and there were many birds. There were places where everywhere you go you would step on bird eggs. There was all kinds of coral and fish in the sea. The landscape and nature there was rich. Whenever we went to the beach, we stepped on bird eggs. The sea snails also have beautiful shells, we went to collect them everyday to make buttons. There were countless and beautiful of them. We still keep some of them until today.

The birth certificate and pictures mentioned above were not only precious memorabilia to Mai Thi Phuong and Mai Thi Phi’s families but also important legal evidence to prove the civil administration in Indochina on Hoang Sa island by the French government, as the guardian of Viet Nam and their execution of sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa. Mai Thi Phuong and Mai Thi Phi were two living witnesses who confirmed the authenticity of these materials.