Posted by: mel | December 26, 2009

Asian Ethnicity, Volume 4 Issue 3 2003

Accessed 26 December 2009

CHARLES A. COPPEL | University of Melbourne, Australia | Special Issue Foreword

Whatever the uncertainties or continuities which were to follow, the fall of President Suharto in May 1998, after presiding over his ‘New Order’ regime for more than three decades, has widely been regarded as a watershed in Indonesia’s political history. The President’s resignation was triggered by an outbreak of the most serious anti-Chinese violence for many years, and it is a premise of the papers presented in this issue of Asian Ethnicity that May 1998 was also a historical turning point for Chinese Indonesians.

There has been a long history of anti-Chinese violence in Indonesia. Undoubtedly, the worst incident was the massacre which occurred under the auspices of the VOC (United Dutch East India company) in 1740 in Batavia (present day Jakarta). The ‘disturbances’ (troebelen) were not the result of some primordial conflict between indigenous Indonesians and Chinese immigrants, but were the response of the Dutch to an uprising by Chinese against colonial rule. Anti-Chinese violence became more common in the final decades of the Netherlands’ rule over the Indies, especially during the heyday of the first Indonesian mass organisation Sarekat Islam, and in the insecure periods of the Japanese invasion and the Indonesian struggle for independence.

Since independence, there have been a number of outbreaks of anti-Chinese violence, of which the worst (prior to the onset of the New Order) were those associated with the implementation of Presidential decree number 10 of 1959 banning retail trade by aliens in rural areas, and the politically inspired riots in West Java (especially in Sukabumi and
Bandung) in the first half of 1963. The insecurity and discrimination associated with the 1959 decree (which affected many Indonesian citizens as well as aliens) caused the largest known exodus of ethnic Chinese from Indonesia.1 The transition to the New Order after the ‘coup attempt’ of 1 October 1965 was a period of insecurity and massive violence, in which it is generally accepted that some 500,000 people were killed.2 Although the ethnic Chinese experienced widespread violence in this period, it would be misleading to say that many of them were among those killed. Although statements to this effect are not uncommon, the evidence suggests that the number of fatalities among them was disproportionately low (with the important exception of the Dayak raids in West Kalimantan in late 1967).

Similarly, although some Chinese suffered lesser forms of violence to the person or were detained on political grounds, the most characteristic form of anti-Chinese violence was damage to property. But there was certainly a dread in the Chinese population that they would become victims of physical violence to the person, and Thung Ju-lan has emphasised the influence of the ‘trauma’ of 1965 on the strategies adopted by them in adjusting to the New Order …..


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