The Anti-Chinese Element

Excerpts from: Human Rights Watch Report - Indonesia: The Medan Demonstrations And Beyond

(May 16, 1994 Vol.6, No.4)

Recent Material

Focus on Human Rights
Indonesia: The Post-Soeharto Period

Attacks on Ethnic Chinese Women in Indonesia
What You Can Do

The anti-Chinese violence was apparently incited in part by flyers (selebaran), which first appeared on Thursday. They appear to have been hastily prepared, although it is not yet known by whom. One flyer, partially legible, read as follows:

Crush the Chinese, who have totally colonized pribumi [ethnic Malay] Indonesia, who rape, murder, steal state money which belongs to the pribumi, oppress the workers and drain the riches of Indonesia which is needed by and belongs only to the pribumi.

Send the Chinese back to their own country; Indonesia is not their native land[...]They are moneylenders who squeeze and oppress pribumi working men and women, students, employees and civil servants. The Chinese are ex-convicts who commit economic crimes, rob us of our independence, and besmirch the Constitution and Pancasila and the laws and regulations of the country.

Take nationalist action against Chinese factory owners who have become arrogant maharajas,[...] who treat workers like animals and obliterate the rights of pribumi in our beloved land.

Lynch, crush [...]and cripple the bosses and corrupt state officials who work with the Chinese colonizers and surrender Indonesia into Chinese hands, who cannot even see the next generation, who do not value our heroes or the history of our struggle, who join forces to oppress students, workers, the army[...]to their hell as a result of their economic and political pressure. They are selling our nation and people cheap, to the point that the Chinese have become citizens and total owners of our beloved Indonesia.

Where has our status and pride gone, what will become of the next generation? There is no need for development if the Chinese own our prosperity and our rights.

In periods of social upheaval or in specific incidents of unrest in Indonesia, the ethnic Chinese have often become a target, in part because of their domination of the economy. They were targeted by the armed forces during the anti-Communist pogroms of 1965-66 and the invasion of East Timor in 1975. In 1980, a wave of anti-Chinese violence swept Central and East Java; and Chinese-owned shops, banks and houses became targets of crowd violence after a riot in the Tanjung Priok area of Jakarta in 1984.

In recent years, ethnic Chinese financiers in Indonesia have taken on a higher profile, in part because of their participation, with other overseas Chinese, in the economic boom in Asia in general and in China in particular. President Suharto, in a very calculated way, drew particular attention to their wealth by inviting dozens to his ranch in Tapos, West Java in 1990 and urging them to share their wealth. Some observers suggested at the time that he was focusing public attention on the wealthiest so as to set up a potential target that might deflect criticism from himself. In the last two months, a major financial scandal involving a Chinese financier has been in the front pages of the Indonesian media; stories have focused not only on his ability to draw on virtually unlimited credit from state banks but also on his ties to leading officials and the President's son.

Anti-Chinese feeling would thus seem relatively easy to incite, and Medan has a higher percentage of ethnic Chinese than many other cities in Indonesia; many wondered why it did not happen sooner. On the other hand, none of the earlier strikes and demonstrations in Medan or elsewhere had raised the question of Chinese economic dominance.

Home Page | About HRW | Research and Advocacy | How You Can Help| HRW International Film Festival