The Vietnamese community in Taiwan is trying to raise funds to repatriate the remains of one of their countrymen who drowned while rescuing a local child from a river in Tainan City on September 13.
The Taiwan – Vietnam Friendship Working Group, which provides services to Vietnamese on the island and only maintains a Facebook page, initially claimed that the body of Tran Ngoc Cong, 28, was sent to a city morgue without any support from his employer.
On Thursday, an official from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Ho Chi Minh City disputed that account, saying that Vietnamese and Taiwanese officials had worked together to bring his family members to the island to recover his body.
The official also maintained that Cong had never lapsed into underground employment and that his new employer was actively assisting in the repatriation of his remains.
Cong, a native of the northern province of Nam Dinh, drowned while rescuing a seven-year-old Taiwanese child who fell into a river in Tainan City.
After pushing the child to shore, he was swept away by the rapid current.
It took rescue workers two hours to salvage Cong’s body.
According to Thao Van, a representative of the Taiwan – Vietnam Friendship Working Group, Cong was the son of a poor family that borrowed heavily get him a job in Taiwan. Van claimed Cong was fired after his first year of contract employment and began working illegally to pay off his family’s debt.
“His sacrifice for the child’s survival is at once a point of pride and sorrow for the Vietnamese community in Taiwan because he passed away leaving his old mother at home with a big debt,” she said.
Van said the family of the child rescued by Cong hasn't offered his family anything because they are also very poor.
The Vietnamese community in Taiwan has launched a campaign to raise donations to send his body home, she added.
In Nam Dinh Province, Cong's older sister Tran Thi Binh said Cong did not tell them that he had lost his legal job in Taiwan.
"I guess he did not want to worry us because we still owe loans of VND300 million (US$14.184)," she said, adding that the family already knew about Cong working illegally through another Vietnamese worker who also worked in Taiwan.
Binh said Cong always called home every weekend and the last time he did so was on the evening before the accident when he said he would have a day off and go out with friends.
Cong's mother, Nguyen Thi Thoan, 65, said many locals have provided succor to he family after being aware of his death. She lives alone in hamlet No.4 of Kim Thai Commune, Vu Ban District, Nam Dinh Province.
Thoan said Cong has four older sisters who married and live with their husbands and that her husband died when Cong was only ten.
Five years ago, Cong migrated to Taiwan to work for three years, she said.
An official at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Ho Chi Minh City said that Cong had never been fired and was in the process of changing jobs when he died saving the child.
His new employer is currently covering the cost of his repatriation, the official maintained.
The official added that Cong has relatives in Taiwan and his immediate family has since been provided with funds to travel to the island to recover his body.