Economic Crisis Leads to Scapegoating of Ethnic Chinese, February 1998
(02/18/98 ) -- The rise in prices of basic goods such as rice and cooking oil has led to violent protests across Indonesia, much of it aimed at the ethnic Chinese minority who dominate the retail economy. The rioting appears to have been largely spontaneous, but Human Rights Watch believes that senior government and military officials have fueled anti-Chinese sentiment through veiled references to "rats" and "traitors" and by their failure to explain that high prices and food shortages are not the fault of individual retailers. Human Rights Watch calls on the government to state explicitly that the ethnic Chinese are a valued and important part of Indonesian society and that violence against them and their property will not be tolerated. Denouncing communal violence in generic terms is not enough. The government should cease immediately the harassment of two prominent members of the ethnic Chinese community, Jusuf and Sofyan Wanandi. Finally, it needs to begin immediately a longer-term effort to end the discrimination against the ethnic Chinese in Indonesia that has existed since the late 1950s. In a commentary in the February 3, 1998 edition of the Asian Wall Street Journal, Indonesia expert Adam Schwarz suggested that President Soeharto take the lead by including an ethnic Chinese in his next cabinet. The government would do well to take that suggestion to heart.Over the last two months, violence against ethnic Chinese has erupted across the country. After a series of outbreaks in Java, the unrest had by mid-February hit the islands of Sumatra, Sulawesi, Lombok, Sumbawa, and Flores as well. In most cases, the protests have been related to sharp increases in the prices of the so-called nine basic commodities (among them rice, wheat flour, cooking oil, sugar, soybeans, and eggs) as a result of the dramatic loss in value of the rupiah, the Indonesian currency. The targets of the violence have been Chinese-owned shops, homes, and businesses.
In none of the dozens of outbreaks of violence chronicled in this report has there been evidence of direct government instigation of the rioters, and the government has been quick to send troops to disturbed areas and arrest alleged ringleaders. Nevertheless, some senior officials have appeared to endorse the anti-Chinese sentiment. Not only have they expressed no sympathy for the victims or made any effort to explain to the public the causes and consequences of the economic crisis, but in some cases, they have tried to deflect blame for the economic crisis onto prominent members of the ethnic Chinese community.
On January 14, for example, the commander of the armed forces in a press conference called on the owners of thirteen large conglomerates to bring their dollars back from abroad and convert them to rupiah.(1) Nowhere was the word "Chinese" mentioned, but the appeal was an implicit accusation that wealthy Chinese were contributing to the currency crisis by selfishly keeping dollars stashed abroad at a time when the rupiah needed bolstering. In late January, Lt.Gen. Syarwan Hamid was reported to have made pointed references to the ethnic Chinese as "rats" who have no sense of patriotism and who at a time of crisis are salting away "the fruits of our national development."(2) President Soeharto's son-in-law, Maj. Gen. Prabowo Subianto, then head of the army Special Forces (Kopassus) and since promoted to commander of the Strategic Reserve (Kostrad, the army's most elite unit), attended a much-publicized breaking of the Ramadan fast with Muslim leaders on January 23 during which he blamed the crisis on a political conspiracy, and others attending explicitly linked the conspirators to "the conglomerate group" and those with their "henchmen operating overseas."(3) The two phrases were clear references to the ethnic Chinese, and Prabowo, instead of distancing himself from the remarks, tacitly endorsed them, urging a united front between the army and Islam. By warning over and over that the draconian anti-subversion law would be applied to hoarders of basic goods without at the same time explaining the difficulties that many shopkeepers are facing, the army has helped generate suspicions that any shop owner who refuses to sell at pre-crisis prices, or who closes his or her shop for fear of violence, is deliberately making goods scarce to keep prices high. The most obvious example of high-level attempts to focus the spotlight on the ethnic Chinese has been the army's targeting of prominent businessman Sofyan Wanandi, in an incident described more fully below.
Veiled and not-so-veiled attacks on the patriotism of the ethnic Chinese have a long history in Indonesia, going back to the Chinese role in the Dutch colonial period and to the 1960s and the army's suspicion that the ethnic Chinese as a group were a fifth column for the Chinese Communist Party. The attacks then were as unfair as they are now, but for reasons that will be explained below, they resonate strongly in Indonesian society, especially, though not exclusively, among more conservative Muslim groups. The Soeharto government has continued a policy of discrimination against the ethnic Chinese, restricting their admission to state universities and the civil service and maintaining a ban on the use of Chinese characters, while at the same time, leaving their dominance of the Indonesian economy intact and enabling a few dozen ethnic Chinese families to amass fabulous wealth. These policies have resulted in a public image of the ethnic Chinese as rich pariahs. The irony is that with the exception of the Wanandi brothers, the main victims of this round of unrest are not members of the estimated forty extremely wealthy families whose heads have earned the appellation cukong, or tycoon, but the shopkeepers who constitute a critical part of Indonesia's middle class.
The ethnic Chinese constitute some 3 percent of the Indonesian population. They are not a homogeneous group. Most come originally from China's southern coastal provinces of Guangdong and Fujian, but they speak different languages -- Hokkien, Hakka, Cantonese, Kek, Teochiu -- and may be Buddhist, Catholic, Protestant, or, more rarely, Muslim. Some are more assimilated into Indonesian society and speak Indonesian as their first language, while others have kept more to Chinese cultural traditions, depending in part on when their families arrived in Indonesia and where they settled. They number among their ranks some of the richest men and women in Southeast Asia, including Liem Sioe Liong, known for years as the Soeharto family's financier, or Mochtar Riady, of U.S. campaign fundraising notoriety. From Dutch colonial times, when the Chinese in Java were the tax farmers for the colonial administration, the ethnic Chinese have been a widely disliked minority and have faced severe discrimination in terms of freedom of association, expression, education, and employment.
Anti-Chinese violence in one form or another has accompanied virtually every outbreak of social and political unrest during President Soeharto's thirty years in power, from the invasion of East Timor in December 1975, where some forty Timorese-Chinese were massacred in Dili harbor on the day after the arrival of Indonesian troops, to a huge workers' rally in Medan, North Sumatra in April 1994, where the death of an ethnic Chinese businessman prompted a letter of concern from the Chinese government. Over 1,000 ethnic Chinese may have been killed in spasms of anti-Chinese violence that struck North Sumatra, Aceh, Kalimantan, and Bali in the aftermath of an attempted coup in 1965, although the vast majority of the hundreds of thousands killed in the anti-communist pogrom that accompanied Soeharto's coming to power were non-Chinese Indonesians. In the last two years, anti-Chinese violence has increasingly included attacks on churches, adding another explosive element to the mix, as many Chinese are also Christian.
Themes of Anti-Chinese Violence
Three overlapping themes run through anti-Chinese action and sentiment in Indonesia: the Chinese as alien and disloyal; the Chinese as anti-Muslim and as unfairly competing with Muslim entrepreneurs; and the Chinese as the selfish rich.
The Ethnic Chinese as Disloyal
In the prelude to the violence of 1965 and for years thereafter, the ethnic Chinese were seen by many in the army and in the Muslim community as a fifth column for the government of Mao Zedong, and as tension grew between the military and the Indonesian Communist Party, then the largest in the world outside China and the Soviet Union, suspicions about the loyalty of the Indonesian Chinese grew with it. Many of Indonesia's ethnic Chinese had retained Chinese citizenship or had rejected the possibility of Indonesian naturalization, and many others associated with the Kuomintang (KMT) party were effectively stateless after the Communist victory in China in 1949.(4)
In 1959, the government of then President Sukarno issued a decree banning alien Chinese from trading in rural areas and in some areas, particularly West Java, used the army to forcibly evict not only the alien Chinese but many Indonesian Chinese as well. The decree caused a major deterioration in relations between the Indonesian and Chinese governments and untold hardship for the Chinese in question. Some were herded into unsanitary quasi-detention camps in the nearest towns; others were taken to harbor areas to await repatriation to China under the aegis of Chinese consular officials, where hard manual labor on communal farms awaited them. Some 100,000 returned; some reached China only to be turned away by the government and forced to return to Indonesia, unwanted by either country.
For many Indonesians, the 1959 decree reinforced their view of Chinese as aliens; for many ethnic Chinese, it generated deep resentment toward the government in Jakarta. At the same time, the discovery of arms sent through Taiwan to aid a rebellion in West Sumatra a year earlier led to the removal of most KMT-affiliated Chinese from institutions and organizations in Indonesia, leaving them in the hands of individuals of more left-wing persuasions. Both factors helped fuel the military's notion of the Chinese as a pro-communist fifth column, even though despite everything, most Chinese were apolitical.
In the aftermath of the coup attempt, staunchly anticommunist politicians deliberately whipped up anti-Chinese sentiment in the press for personal support or to bring about, as they eventually did, a diplomatic break between Beijing and Jakarta, claiming China had backed the coup effort.(5) Many of the initial anti-Chinese attacks in this period were aimed at Chinese diplomatic buildings. In Medan and Aceh in the northern part of Sumatra, the focus of attack shifted to the local Chinese population, with hundreds killed and thousands displaced from their homes. Hundreds more were killed in West Kalimantan in 1967 when the army deliberately incited an ethnic conflict between the indigenous Dayak people and local Chinese in an effort to quash a guerrilla group operating along the Malaysian-Indonesia border in Borneo that had substantial -- but mostly Malaysian -- Chinese involvement.(6)
In the aftermath of the coup, a group of largely Christian assimilationist Chinese in the Institute for the Promotion of National Unity (Lembaga Pembina Kesatuan Bangsa, or LPKB), an organization with close links to the army, led an effort to persuade Indonesian citizens of Chinese descent to drop their Chinese names in favor of Indonesian ones. Thus Liem Sioe Liong became Sudomo Salim, and Liam Bian Kie became Jusuf Wanandi. By 1969, according to a Justice Ministry statement, 232,882 Chinese had changed their names.(7) Even so, the military has made veiled references to the links between Chinese and communists ever since.
The Ethnic Chinese as Anti-Muslim
Many of the direct attacks on ethnic Chinese, from the 1950s to the present, have been carried out by Muslim organizations or in the name of Islam, sometimes with the army in the background. The antipathy of some -- by no means all -- Muslims toward the Chinese is at once economic, political, and cultural. (For this reason, it is particularly significant that opposition leader Amien Rais of the Muslim organization Muhammadiyah, one of the most popular political figures in Indonesia today, condemned the anti-Chinese violence in a speech on February 15, 1998 and called the ethnic Chinese "our brothers" who "have become part and parcel of this integrated nation.")(8)
Economic rivalry has been a key issue. Members of the indigenous trading and business community in Indonesia, many of them from West Sumatra or the coastal towns of Java, tended to be particularly pious Muslims, and it was they who saw the Chinese as their main economic rivals. The 1959 decree expelling Chinese from rural areas was promulgated by a trade minister from one of the largest Muslim political parties, and it was designed expressly to give more opportunity to indigenous traders.
Muslim organizations and youth groups, with the active encouragement of the army, carried out much of the killing of suspected communists -- though few Chinese -- in East Java after 1965, seeing the elimination of atheistic communism as a way to gain pahala, or reward, in the hereafter. The conversion of Chinese throughout Indonesia to Christianity rose sharply after 1965, as protection against being suspected of communist sympathies.
An alliance took shape after the coup attempt that fueled distrust of ethnic Chinese on the part of some Muslim groups. In 1971, some of the assimilationist Chinese Catholics joined forces with Indonesian army intelligence led by Soeharto confidante Ali Moertopo and Soedjono Hoemardani to set up a think tank called the Center for Strategic and International Studies, now headed by Jusuf Wanandi. While CSIS was a legitimate research institution producing first-rate political and economic studies, it was also widely seen, rightly or wrongly, as the place in which many of Ali Moertopo's covert operations took shape, from the invasion of East Timor to the creation of the Komando Jihad in 1977. Komando Jihad was Moertopo's effort, prior to the 1977 general elections, to persuade men associated with past Muslim rebellions to launch a renewed drive for an Islamic state in such a way as to discredit the Muslim political party, the PPP. Komando Jihad was launched at a time when the PPP seemed on the verge of making a creditable challenge to the ruling party, Golkar. It also provided a pretext for a more general roundup of Muslim political activists.(9)
General Benny Moerdani, commander of the armed forces from 1983-88 and himself a Catholic, succeeded Ali Moertopo as CSIS's patron, and was in charge of Indonesian troops in September 1984, when soldiers were sent into Tanjung Priok, the port area of Jakarta, to quell a Muslim demonstration. In circumstances that have never been adequately investigated, the soldiers opened fire, killing an estimated one hundred people, although the official death toll was only thirty. The combined effect of Komando Jihad and the Tanjung Priok incident with the links of Moertopo and Moerdani to CSIS convinced many Muslims of the existence of a Chinese-Christian-military conspiracy to keep Islam weak. The immediate aftermath of the Tanjung Priok shootings was a bomb attack linked to Muslim preachers on an office of Bank Central Asia, owned by Liem Sioe Liong.
In 1996 and 1997, anti-Chinese and anti-Christian sentiment became more intertwined. In October 1996 in Situbondo, East Java, twenty-seven churches and one Chinese temple were wrecked after a local court handed down a sentence in a blasphemy case that local Muslim groups reportedly considered too light. There is some evidence that the violence was deliberately instigated, and local security forces made no effort initially to stop it.
On December 26, 1996 in Tasikmalaya, West Java, violence flared during a protest by Muslim groups against the torture of Muslim teachers in a police station. The protest turned into anti-Chinese violence, with a mob attacking shops, hotels, car dealers, factories, churches, police posts, and houses. At least four people died in the violence, including a Chinese woman. Four churches, three Protestant and a Catholic, were badly damaged, and a largely Chinese-owned shopping complex, the Matahari, was burned to the ground.
In January 1997 in the West Java town of Rengasdengklok, an anti-Chinese riot erupted after an ethnic Chinese man used rude epithets to protest against the noise coming from the beating of a drum in a local mosque. Muslim youth were beating the drum to wake the faithful for the pre-sunrise meal during the fasting month of Ramadan. In the ensuing destruction, forty-two Chinese-owned shops and seventy-six houses were damaged or destroyed, together with two banks, three small factories, three churches, and two Chinese temples. Tjio Kim Tjoan, the Chinese man, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for blasphemy. Twenty-one of the rioters were sentenced to terms ranging from two to four months.
During the election campaign in 1997, the most violent ever to take place under Soeharto, clashes between the ruling Golkar party and the heavily Muslim PPP ended in many cases in anti-Chinese violence, with wealthy Chinese seen as emblematic of the income divide that had become increasingly associated with the Soeharto government. The worst incident of the campaign took place in May in Banjarmasin, Kalimantan, where PPP supporters, angered by the supporters of Golkar riding motorcycles near a mosque during Friday prayers, took to the streets burning and looting shops and homes. In a fire set in one of the city's largest shopping centers, over 120 people lost their lives when they were trapped on the second floor.
Finally, in September 1997, Muslim-led riots against the Chinese began after a disturbed Chinese man killed a nine-year-old girl and a Muslim woman lecturer at the local state Islamic Institute. In the paroxysm of anti-Chinese violence that followed, three people were killed, sixty-two houses were burned to the ground and more than 1,000 others damaged, and four places of worship were destroyed.
The violence associated with the economic crisis is thus part of a well-established pattern, even if the proximate cause has changed.
Chinese as the Selfish Rich
The third theme running through the violence is that of the Chinese as the selfish rich, not using their wealth in a time of crisis. If Chinese were stigmatized as disloyal in the 1960s because of suspected links to Beijing, in the midst of this crisis they are stigmatized as disloyal for not liquidating their foreign bank accounts and contributing the contents to the "I Love the Rupiah" campaign, led by Soeharto's daughter, Tutut. No such stigmatization has fallen on the army officers or Soeharto family members whose combined wealth exceeds that of the wealthiest Chinese financier.
THE SOFYAN WANANDI CASE
All of these themes come together in the targeting of ethnic Chinese businessman Sofyan Wanandi. Wanandi, who sits on the board of CSIS, is the fifty-five-year-old head of the Gemala Group, a conglomerate with interests in the automotive, pharmaceutical, chemical, and service sectors. A widely respected businessman, he was active in 1966 in the student organization KAMI that mobilized mass demonstrations in support of Soeharto. For his services, he was appointed to the Indonesian parliament in 1967 and made good use of political connections to establish himself in business. With the death of CSIS founder Ali Moertopo, the fall from favor of General Moerdani, and the increasingly Islamic cast of the Soeharto government, the political clout of CSIS waned, and with it, Sofyan's links to the power structure. In December 1997 and January 1998, he made no secret of his disagreement with government policies or his concern that political uncertainty about the succession in Indonesia could lead to a deepening of the economic crisis. He had also reportedly declined to take part in the "I Love the Rupiah" campaign. On January 10, he was quoted by Suara Pembaruan, a major newspaper, as calling on President Soeharto to name his vice-presidential candidate immediately to help stabilize the situation.
On January 18, a homemade bomb went off prematurely in the Tanah Tinggi district of Jakarta in a room allegedly belonging to students linked to a leftist organization called the People's Democratic Party or PRD, and specifically to its student wing, Indonesian Student Solidarity for Democracy (Solidaritas Mahasiswa Indonesia untuk Demokrasi or SMID). The PRD was formally banned last September, and its head, a twenty-seven-year-old student named Budiman Soedjatmiko, was sentenced to thirteen years in prison on subversion charges. The PRD's political manifesto had called for the ousting of the Soeharto regime.
A resident in the building where the bomb went off told the press she saw three youths running away, one of whom had seemed to have badly injured his hand. One of the three, identified as Agus Priyono, was captured. The two others, identified only as David and Prayogo, remained at large. When police got to the room where the bomb had been put together, they said they found amid the wreckage a laptop computer; three pagers; and a wallet, passport, and Indonesian identity card belonging to one Daniel Indrakusumah, a member of SMID. They also found a letter addressed to a PRD activist named Petrus. The room in question had only been rented out for the past twenty days, and the landlady told reporters that about six students came and went from the room.(10)
The Jakarta military commander, Maj. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeuddin, immediately announced that the bombing was linked to the PRD, and shortly thereafter, he claimed that an e-mail message had been found on the laptop linking the student bombers to Sofyan Wanandi. According to Republika newspaper, which has carried the most complete accounts of the incident, the message read in part:
Yesterday I heard from Alex that Sofyan Wanandi and Prasetya Mulya are going to help us with funding, in addition to the moral support from abroad that Yusuf Wanandi is going to mobilize.(11)
In addition, the newspaper reported, other documents were found indicating that the Wanandis, together with other members of the elite, were going to use their money to promote alternative candidates for vice-president. The younger and older generations would work together to bring about a revolution with the help of four forces: the academic and strategic community represented by a well-known research institute in Jakarta [presumably CSIS], which would do the analysis and concept paper; certain retired military officers who had once wielded considerable power [presumably a reference to Benny Moerdani]; the supporters of Megawati Soekarnoputri; and economic powers such as Sofyan and Yusuf Wanandi.(12) It is important to note that even if the press descriptions of the contents of these documents were accurate and if the authors had accurately represented the Wanandis' views -- two big ifs -- it would be perfectly within the bounds of legitimate exercise of freedom of expression to exchange such thoughts at meetings or via electronic mail.
On January 25, Yunus Yosfiah, the head of the social and political section of the armed forces, told reporters that the armed forces believed there was a political conspiracy behind the rupiah crisis designed to bring down the government, and the military had evidence to that effect.(13)
On January 26, Sofyan obeyed a summons apparently issued some days earlier, and appeared for investigation by the internal security agency, Bakorstanas, accompanied by two lawyers. He held a press conference afterwards, saying he was pleased with how the questioning went and denying any involvement with the PRD. Not to be outdone, Maj. Gen. Sjamsoeddin held his own press conference, accompanied by the Jakarta police chief, to say that Sofyan had been very nervous during the investigation and even though he denied any involvement, the possibility of further questioning remained open.
Later the same day, the first of several demonstrations took place in front of CSIS, demanding that the institution be closed down and Sofyan Wanandi investigated. They held banners referring to Sofyan by his Chinese name, Liem Bian Koen. The demonstrators belonged to a group calling themselves Students in Solidarity with Indonesian Unity (Solidaritas Mahasiswa untuk Persatuan Indonesia); one witness said the same students had appeared in a demonstration against East Timorese Bishop Belo when he was being questioned in Jakarta about his negative remarks about Indonesians in an interview he had given to a German magazine. (14) In an interview with Republika, the organizer of the demonstration, a man named Saidan Efendi Darwis, said he and his fellow protestors wanted CSIS closed because the Wanandis had been silent when they should have been urging their friends to withdraw their foreign savings and bring the money back to Indonesia. Liem Bian Koen had betrayed the 1966 struggle, Darwis said. The group said a Muslim prayer before leaving the CSIS grounds.(15)
The next day, hundreds of demonstrators, arriving on two large buses and several minibuses, staged a larger demonstration. Calling themselves the Forum for the Restoration of National Dignity (Forum Pemulihan Martabat Bangsa) and wearing Palestinian-style scarves or white skullcaps, they also demanded the dissolution of CSIS and the investigation of the Wanandi brothers, not only for the bomb blast but for their role in the fall of the rupiah.(16)
That same day, January 27, Sofyan Wanandi left Indonesia suddenly for Australia. His departure raised speculation about whether he was about to be blacklisted and prevented from going abroad, and Gen. Feisal Tanjung, the armed forces commander, said it would have been better if he had stayed so that he did not create more doubts and questions. If he was a good citizen, he would not have left the country, the general said.(17)
On February 5, a group of Muslim students calling themselves the Action Front of Islamic Youth of Greater Jakarta (Front Aksi Pemuda Islam Jabotabek) held a demonstration on the grounds of the outspoken magazine D & R to protest an article in its latest edition titled "The Sofyan Wanandi Case: Who Believes What" (Kasus Sofyan Wanandi: Siapa Percaya Mana). They said the article was cynical and denigrating to Muslim youth because it suggested that the anti-Sofyan demonstrations were being manipulated by someone else. A spokesman for the group said they did not need to be told who was an enemy and who was a friend, and now was the time to destroy CSIS.(18)
Sofyan returned to Jakarta on February 8 and underwent further questioning later that week. On February 13, Jusuf Wanandi was summoned for an in-depth interrogation at one of the most notorious interrogation centers, Pomdam Jaya, in Jakarta. As of this writing, there appeared to be no let-up in the campaign against the Wanandis, and it was no coincidence that the government news agency, quickly followed by the major dailies in Jakarta, began to use the brothers' Chinese names in articles, as if to highlight their ethnicity.
INCIDENTS OF VIOLENCE IN INDONESIA, JANUARY-FEBRUARY 1998
In the meantime, violence continues to break out across Indonesia, most (but not all) of it directed against the ethnic Chinese. Much of this appears to be spontaneous, not government-directed, and where there have been indications of prior planning, it is not clear who was responsible. But the government's actions against Sofyan Wanandi and the statements of military officers implying that certain members of the ethnic Chinese community are traitors help create an atmosphere of tolerance for these kinds of attacks on Chinese-owned shops. Some of the specific incidents include the following:
January 5: Bandung, West Java
Thousands of sidewalk vendors, petty traders, and others went on the rampage after about twenty members of the National Discipline Movement (Gerakan Disiplin Nasional), a kind of civil guard under the armed forces, tried to stop them from trading. They said they were permitted to trade until 6:00 p.m., especially since it was the Muslim fasting month, and they needed money for the coming holidays. The mob turned over a police car, smashed the glass, and slashed the tires, then sacked shops along a five-kilometer stretch of road in the area of Cicadas. Hundreds of shops were destroyed, including the Matahari Department Store. Anger against the security forces quickly turned into anti-Chinese sentiment, and several shopowners, to protect themselves, put up signs saying "Muslim-owned" to protect themselves. The mob then clashed with more than 1,000 police and soldiers and only dispersed after a huge downpour of rain at about 6:00 p.m.(19)
January 12-13: Banuwangi, East Java
More than 1,000 people from several villages around Banyuwangi went in a convoy around Kalibaru, Glenmore, Genteng Singojuruh, Rogojampi, Srono and Jajag as a protest against the increase in prices of basic goods, against the government, and against speculators.(20) The action started in subdistrict Kalibaru at about 8:30 a.m., mostly with motorcycles but with other vehicles as well, and lasted until about 3:00 p.m. As the procession continued, the anger mounted and hundreds of Chinese-owned stores, warehouses, and vehicles were stoned or otherwise damaged. One report said the anger stemmed from the fact that local people had seen television news programs of emergency marketing programs undertaken by local offices of the national rice logistics agency to lower prices of some basic goods, but these prices were not available in the Banyuwangi district.(21) Seven people were arrested by subdistrict military command and the Besuki police. Hundreds of security forces were not enough to stop the convoy. The next day, when protests broke out again, security forces could do nothing except to let the mob go on the rampage, according to the press.
January 14-15: Jember, East Java
About 150 people on bicycles and motorcycles attacked and looted several stores. At least fifteen shops were destroyed. Security forces in Jember sent in reinforcements in a joint team consisting of the direct military and police commands, a riot police (Brimob) unit, the subdistrict police, and troops from a battalion of the Strategic Reserve (Kostrad). On January 15, the Sumber Mas shopping center was burned to the ground.(22)
January 15: Purwoharjo, Banyuwangi, East Java
About one hundred motorcyclists formed a procession, initially peaceful, demanding that prices of nine basic commodities be reduced. When the convoy, which had started out in the village of Sraten, reached Purworejo, security forces tried to stop it in what one report called "an unsympathetic manner." Some of those in front tried to move to the back, but the army closed in. There were unconfirmed reports that the troops opened fire.(23)
January 18: Jakarta
A bomb went off in Tanah Tinggi, Jakarta (see above).
January 26-27: Kragan, Rembang, Central Java
Hundreds of people began stoning Chinese-owned shops in the town of Kragan, Rembang, near the border between East and Central Java to protest a reported tripling of the price of kerosene. The violence broke out around 10:00 p.m. in protest against rising prices, just as the shopowners were closing up for the night. Some seventeen shops were destroyed and the merchandise looted; the rioting ceased around midnight. A Protestant church was damaged, and a Virgin Mary statue and cross in the chapel of a Catholic church were destroyed. Order was restored around 3:00 p.m. the next day. The perpetrators were said to come from two fishing villages, Karang Lincak and Karang Jarak, where people lead a hand-to-mouth existence, and kerosene is an essential item. No one was arrested or detained.(24)
January 27: Sarang, Rembang, Central Java
Nine Chinese-owned shops were destroyed by a mob of youths. As a result of the Kragan and Sarang violence, the local army, police, and district head convened a meeting with forty community leaders and shopowners and sellers of kerosene to try and address the issue.(25)
January 27: Banyuwangi, East Java
About twenty-five people tried to attack a Chinese-owned rice milling company in the village of Pakisaji, subdistrict Kabat, Banyuwangi about 11:00 p.m., and when they could not enter, they vandalized a truck and minibus and poured gasoline over them. They also cut the miller's electric power lines.
January 28: Sluke, Rembang, Central Java
Six people were reported arrested after a crowd of mostly young people stoned four shops, damaging the roofs and windows, following rumors of a kerosene price hike. The violence lasted for about three hours, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Sluke residents said they recognized some of the attackers as coming from villages outside Sluke, and reports suggested they were the same as the youths involved in the Kragan and Sarang violence. Police detained twenty-one people.
January 28-30: Tuban, East Java
Three days of rioting in Tuban wrecked the ethnic Chinese-dominated shopping districts in Bulu, Tambakboyo and Palang. Mobs were protesting the rise in prices of basic commodities. At least one hundred youths were involved.(26) Police said they thought the rioting was coordinated, because the rioters came from four different villages and all gathered in the shopping center at Tambakboyo on January 28. Several shops were stoned and looted, and the Pentecostal church in Bulu had its chairs, sound system, and electric fans vandalized. The next day, the rioters went to Jatirogo and sacked the market and shops there. On Friday, they arrived at the Palang subdistrict, about seven kilometers to the east of Tuban. In each place, they broke into Chinese-owned shops, took out merchandise, and destroyed it. More than 130 people were initially detained. Two people considered the organizers of the violence were kept in police custody.(27)
February 1: Donggala, Central Sulawesi
At about 9:00 p.m. a group of youths decided to buy brandy, only to find the price had risen from Rp.4,000 to 4,500. They began stoning shops owned by Chinese along the main shopping street in the old market area. Word spread of the protest and others began gathering. Police arrived on the scene and reportedly fired into the air. The crowd turned on the police after two of their own were brought to the local police station. After the two were released, the crowd regrouped and began singing the national anthem, all the while shouting and throwing stones. At about 11:30 p.m. two trucks of anti-riot forces from Palu arrived on the scene -- Palu is about thirty-four kilometers from Donggala. Even so, the crowd continued to attack Chinese shops. At 4:00 a.m. on February 2, police brought the situation under control. Later that morning a meeting took place at the subdistrict office of Banawa between the district head, district military officer, and other officials with youths and traders in the area. At about 10:00 p.m. people began throwing stones again. No one was arrested.(28)
February 2: Pasuruan, East Java
Thirty people, most of them teenagers, were initially detained by police after a demonstration by hundreds of people to protest the rise in the price of kerosene from Rp.450 per liter to Rp.1000 per liter led to an attack on Chinese-owned shops. Kerosene is used in petromax lamps that are standard equipment aboard the fishing vessels widely used in the area for night-fishing. Estimates of the numbers involved in the attacks ranged from 400 to 2,000.(29) The violence began when a mob attacked the store and house of a wholesaler of kerosene, but troops arrived from a combat battalion (Zeni Tempur) and were able to bring the situation under control around 10:00 a.m. An hour later, a second wave of protestors arrived. Eight shops were destroyed and two vehicles burned. Most of the detainees were allowed to go home the next day, but three were kept in custody as the suspected organizers.(30)
February 2: Ujung Pandang, South Sulawesi
More than fifty people, most of them teenagers said to belong to a newly-formed organization called the "Anti-Chinese Movement", threw stones at dozens of Chinese-owned shops along Barokang and Buakarai streets beginning at about 3:00 p.m. Chinese shopowners had heard the day before that the "movement" had planned an action for that day and closed their shops and business accordingly.(31) Four youths, ranging in age from fifteen to eighteen, were arrested. The crowd was protesting the rise in prices of basic goods. With memories still fresh of the rioting in September 1997 in Ujung Pandang in which five people were killed, most major shopping centers in the city closed down out of fear the violence would spread. A student who took part in the rioting told a foreign correspondent, "The Chinese have been given too many opportunities, they think of themselves too highly, and they are suspected of stockpiling food."(32)
February 2: Jakarta
About twenty-five people calling themselves the "Extended Family of the Tanjung Priok Incident of September 12, 1984" went to the national parliament to demand a decrease in the price of basic goods and the prosecution of Sofyan Wanandi and Soeharto family financier Liem Sioe Liong. The demonstrators were led by relatives of Amir Biki, a Muslim preacher killed during the 1984 Tanjung Priok riot.(33)
February 3: Malang, East Java
Rioters, most of them students, stoned Chinese-owned shops selling kerosene after prices more than doubled within days.
February 3: Jember, East Java
Twenty men armed with sharp weapons destroyed a Chinese-owned shop in the village of Kasiyan, subdistrict Puger, in Jember.(34)
February 4: Sukarame, Bandar Lampung, Sumatra
At 8:00 a.m. a group of unidentified people attacked a church in Gunung Sulah village, Sukarame subdistrict, breaking the windows and shingles. Eight trucks of soldiers from the regional military command (Korem 043) arrived and restored order.(35)
February 6: Bima, Sumbawa
Thousands of people attacked Chinese-owned shops and destroyed the central shopping center. The rampage began at 8:00 a.m. with people coming in from at least four different subdistricts. Police fired warning shots to disperse the mob, but they had no effect. The crowd moved on to warehouses of major Chinese wholesalers of basic commodities, breaking into them and looting their contents. Some Muslim shopowners, fearful of being attacked by accident, hung prayer rugs on the doors of their closed shops to indicate they were not Chinese.(36)
February 7: Bojonegoro, East Java
Dozens of students from subdistrict Purwosari, Bojonegoro, attacked the ethnic Chinese-owned "Langgeng" shop, the largest store in the area selling basic commodities. They broke windows and damaged several parts of the store. Rumors of a pending attack had been circulating for three days. Local security officials had tried to coordinate preventative action, but the attack took them by surprise. The entire incident lasted only about a half-hour.(37)
February 8-9: Ende, Flores
More than twenty-one shops owned by ethnic Chinese were destroyed in two days of rioting by crowds in Ende, a town of about 66,000 people. They were protesting price hikes and food shortages. Dozens of ethnic Chinese were forced to take shelter in the local police station.(38) Fear of further rioting kept all local transport off the street and students and workers at home. No one was detained. The local office of the national rice distribution agency opened a special market to sell rice at specially low prices.
February 11: Palu, Central Sulawesi
About 500 demonstrators, consisting largely of university and high school students, demanded a decrease in prices of basic goods. After most of the activists had gone home and the others remained on the campus of a local state university, surrounded by security forces (police and army, some in civilian dress), someone began throwing stones at the troops. The police fired about a dozen shots, hitting the walls of some university buildings. As the students began fleeing, the security forces moved in to arrest them, reportedly kicking and beating them. Thirty-four demonstrators, twenty of them students, were arrested and taken to district police headquarters, where they were held briefly and released. Their arrest was apparently used as a pretext by police to search two nongovernmental organizations, the Free Land Foundation and the Bantaya Legal Aid Foundation.(39)
February 12-13: Jatiwangi, Majalengka, West Java
Hundreds of demonstrators stoned or set fire to twenty-three stores owned by ethnic Chinese on February 12, with two more stores burned on February 13. The district police commander said the violence was not spontaneous but had been instigated from outside. He cited as evidence the presence of two vehicles that brought people into the town, moments before the unrest broke out, and the arrest of a man named Lubis, a student from a university in the provincial capital of Bandung. In addition to Lubis, over forty others were arrested.(40)
February 12: Losari, Brebes on the border between West and Central Java
Two people were shot by troops in the aftermath of a riot when about 500 demonstrators attacked some forty ethnic Chinese-owned shops and houses in the village of Losari Lor. Tamin bin Darmawi and Amran, both aged twenty-two, were killed, and six other youths between the ages of fifteen and seventeen were wounded.(41) Merchandise, such as soap, cooking oil, sugar, and even electronic goods, was thrown to the streets in the course of the riot and burned, with the rioters preventing other members of the crowd from taking items for themselves, saying, "We aren't thieves." The crowd dispersed briefly for Friday prayers and around 11:00 a.m. regrouped and entered the town of Losari, Brebes. Security forces tried unsuccessfully to prevent them from crossing the bridge into the town over the river Cisanggarung that divides the provinces of West and Central Java, but they pushed through, as troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets. Twenty-four people were arrested.(42)
February 12: Kuningan, Cirebon, West Java
In Kuningan district, at about 8:00 p.m., the main market was set on fire, with about one hundred kiosks destroyed.(43)
February 13: Ciasem and Pamanukan, Subang, West Java
Some twenty-five ethnic Chinese stores in Ciasem and Pamanukan in the district of Subang were attacked by a mob protesting the rise in prices of basic commodities. The mob also set fire to twelve cars and nineteen motorcycles. One hundred ninety-eight rioters were arrested, most of them charged with theft, vandalism, and demonstrating without a permit.(44)
February 13: Sukra, Indramayu, West Java
Anti-Chinese rioting in the village of Patrol Lor, subdistrict Sukra, in the district of Indramayu, left a church destroyed.
February 13: Losari Timur, Tanjung, and Bulakamba, Brebes, Central Java
Rioting hit the above three subdistricts, with six people arrested. As a result of the violence along the northern coast between West and Central Java, traffic was totally stopped, buses were not running, and security forces had to get from town to town by helicopter.(45)
February 13-16: Padang Sidimpuan, Tapanuli Selatan, North Sumatra
Three days of rioting began on February 13 when thousands of becak (pedicab) drivers attacked an automobile spare parts store. It then turned into a more general riot against the rise in the prices of basic commodities and resulting food shortages.(46) Automobile and motorcycle repair shops have closed down in the area because they can no longer afford spare parts, and public transport has been badly affected. The violence on February 13 led to a complete shutdown of transport on February 14, stranding many students at bus stops; many later became involved in more anti-Chinese violence. As of February 16, 90 percent of the shops in Padang Sidempuan remained closed.(47)
February 14: Praya, Central Lombok
A demonstration involving hundreds of people demanding a lowering of the price of basic goods turned into a violent riot and led to troops opening fire. Two young men, Fadli, aged eighteen, from Mangkung, and Sahrun, thirty, from Darek, were killed, but police said they were trampled to death as the mob dispersed to avoid the gunfire. Eleven others were being treated in the Praya general hospital. A member from the police mobile brigade was wounded in the hand. The violence apparently grew out of a confrontation between shoppers and a trader near the Praya bus terminal and eventually led to the stoning of the Sinar Terang shop and the local branch office of Bank Danamon. The home of an ethnic Chinese named Kotong was also stoned. Rumors had been circulating for days that the shops would be attacked, and shopowners were particularly wary because Saturday is the traditional market day for central Lombok. Regular police, riot police, and soldiers were called in to quell the unrest.(48)
February 14: Sentani, Irian Jaya
Attacks on Chinese shops took place in the town of Sentani, Irian Jaya, but they were quickly brought under control.(49)
February 15: Sindang Laut, Cirebon, West Java
Six ethnic Chinese-owned shops were burned.
February 15: Kadipaten, Majalengka, West Java
Hunger was said to be the main cause of two days of rioting that broke out in Kadipaten, resulting in the destruction of Chinese shops. One report said police and troops stood by passively, detaining only one man as he tried to use kerosene and paint thinner to set fire to a Chinese-owned store. They did not intervene to prevent the burning of other shops.(50)
February 16: Bandung, West Java
Twelve people were detained as ringleaders of rioting that broke out in three subdistricts of Bandung, namely Pangalengan, Cicalengka and Cimindi. The district head of Bandung claimed rioters had been trucked in, having been paid Rp.5,000 each to take part, and said their mission was to disrupt the political climate for the upcoming session of the People's Consultative Assembly that will give President Soeharto a seventh term.(51) Violence broke out among people stranded by a transport strike outside Pangalengan. They were reportedly joined by people running through the crowd yelling, "Burn, burn!" and it was after this that attacks on Chinese shops began.(52)
February 16: Pagar Alam, South Sumatra
Hundreds of demonstrators attacked stores selling basic goods. The violence lasted for about three hours. A combined military and police team restored order.(53)
February 16: Kendari, Southeast Sulawesi
Demonstrators attacked Chinese-owned shops, pelting them with stones.(54) Thirty-seven were reported arrested but it is not clear from press reports how long they were held, or indeed whether any were formally charged.
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