Video of Salt Bae serving communist leader golden steak sparks outrage in Vietnam

A senior leader of the Communist Party of Vietnam was in London last week to visit the tomb of the philosopher Karl Marx, whose writings defended the struggle of the proletariat to overthrow the ruling plutocracy.

While there, the official, General Tu Lam, also ate a steak covered in 24-karat gold foil at a restaurant run by the social media star and restaurateur known as Salt Bae, according to a video the chef posted online but quickly disappeared.

Many details of the meal were not available, including who was present, the total cost, and who ultimately paid for it in full.

But the short-lived video sparked outrage in Vietnam, where it appeared to undermine the communist party’s egalitarian image with a study.

The video also put Facebook, the social media platform that often faces pressure from the Vietnamese government to censor content, in another unwelcome spotlight. The chef’s widely used hashtag – #saltbae – has been temporarily blocked on Facebook.

Meta, the newly renamed parent company of Facebook, said in a statement that the hashtag #saltbae was unblocked on Tuesday and that it was investigating why it was being blocked.

What is known about the meal largely comes from a Salt Bae video, which was deleted from the chef’s TikTok account, followed by nearly 11 million. It provided an unwelcome portrait in Vietnam, at a time when the pandemic has so many people nervous.

“It paints a sharp contrast about the disparity in living standards in Vietnamese society,” said Chinh Duong, a Hanoi architect and political commentator. “Especially during the last pandemic, when the budget is running out and workers are struggling to survive – such a grandiose party of officials is insulting.”

The ministry said the visitors, while in London, “showed respect to those who based their theories in which the Vietnamese people overthrew the oppressive regimes of colonialists and imperialists.”

General Lam also visited the London restaurant run by Nusrat Gokci, known to his millions of followers on Instagram and TikTok as Salt Bae for its food as its glow: black sunglasses, white shirt, elbow bend as salt drips like snowflakes from his gloved and glistening fingers.

The meal seems to include Tomahawk 24 karat gold Steaks, according to the British newspaper, can cost up to £850, or $1,150.

Just like Mr. Goxie did is over Many times before, served the guest who ordered the golden steak, and posted a video of it on TikTok.

Although the video was quickly deleted from Mr. Goxie’s account, some people copied it and posted it elsewhere. In one video on YouTubeGokce serves three gold-covered steaks to a men’s table as several people look on with glee.

At one point, the video shows Mr Gokce delicately balancing a steak at the end of a long knife. He hangs the knife on the table and places the steak in the open mouth of a seated man. The man bites the steak and, apparently satisfied with the presentation, raises his right hand and raises the chef’s thumb up.

Gokce did not immediately respond to a direct message sent on TikTok requesting comment. The Vietnamese government could not be reached for comment.

When asked, Facebook did not say if the hashtag was restricted regionally or globally. Facebook is widely used in Vietnam, and the government has sometimes strategically cut off access to it ahead of planned protests, asking Facebook and YouTube to help it crack down on fake accounts and “toxic” content, such as anti-government material, according to local newspaper Tuoi Tre.

Reuters, who first reported the hashtag block, said TikTok users in Vietnam who searched for the video were told it had been removed from the app for violating “community standards”.

However, news of the luxury meal spread widely on social media and sparked a backlash.

“What we’re seeing is just the tip of a very big iceberg,” said Pham Minh Phu, a blogger and dissident. “Everyone knows that the Vietnamese officials are very corrupt, so when they see such an incident, they use it as an opportunity to express their anger.”

The richness of the meal was disturbing, said the famous Vietnamese writer Le Trung Van, as was the length of time the story had spread. “The strange thing is that the story has been hot for several days,” Mr. Fan said. Usually government censorship can crush an unpleasant story “in a few hours”.

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