Posted by: mel | April 8, 2009

After a Lifetime of Waiting and Worry, Chinese-Indonesians Get Citizenship

Jakarta Globe | Nurfika Osman | 8 April 2009

Almost 200 “stateless Chinese descendants” living in Surabaya, East Java Province, received their Indonesian citizenship on Tuesday, some after a 70-year wait, the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights said on Wednesday.

Noor Prapto, a ministry spokesman in East Java, said more than 60 percent of the 196 new Indonesian citizens were older than 55.

“The oldest person was a 76-year-old woman who had been waiting almost her entire life to get her citizenship,” Noor said. “They received their citizenship as they had been waiting for too long, and also because it was a mandate from the country that we grant them Indonesian citizenship.”

Noor blamed the long wait on the fact that they were officially classed as stateless under the Suharto regime, which discriminated against the ethnic Chinese in Indonesia, including the refusal to grant citizenship. He said the 196 residents were very happy to obtain citizenship and their ID cards.

“We are still collecting data about how many stateless Chinese descendants want to be naturalized as Indonesians,” he said, adding that last month the ministry had naturalized some 50 residents.

Noor said 72-year-old Tjoa Swie Khing, a resident of Kampung Seng, was one of the most enthusiastic recipients of citizenship. “She did not even have a Chinese passport,” he said. “She used to hold a citizen’s identity card for foreign nationals, although she had to keep renewing the document, which said she had to report to the authorities on a yearly basis.”

Tjoa has seven children who were also granted Indonesian citizenship, Noor said, adding that the mother had expressed relief her children would now be able to access opportunities that would lead to a better life.

“She said now that her children could get birth certificates, they would have more access to education and work,” he said.

Noor said the government had approved the granting of citizenship because the Chinese descendants felt they were Indonesian.

“The fact is that they feel like they are Indonesians and love this country as they have been living here for so long,” he said, adding that the ministry would naturalize more ethnic Chinese residents next month.

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