Chinese Indonesian

Chinese Indonesian

ethnic group
group=Chinese Indonesian "印度尼西亞華人"


"Yìndùníxīyà Huárén"

poptime=1,739,000 (2000 census)cite book
publisher=Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
title=Indonesia's Population: Ethnicity and Religion in a Changing Political Landscape
date =
Note: it has been suggested that these figures are a significant under-estimate due to reluctance by many to identify themselves as ethnically Chinese. []
popplace = Jakarta (460,000), West Kalimantan (352,900), East Java (191,000), Riau (176,900), Central Java (165,500), West Java (163,300), Bangka-Belitung (103,700), Banten (90,000)
rels=Predominately Buddhism, Confucianism with Taoism. Minority Christianity and IslamFact|date=August 2008.
langs=IndonesianHakkaMin Nan ♦ Teochew ♦ MandarinCantoneseTaishaneseHinghwaHainaneseHokchiaNumerous Indonesian languages/dialects
related=Overseas Chinese

Chinese Indonesians (zh-stp|s=印度尼西亚华人|t=印度尼西亞華人|p=Yìndùníxīyà Huárén, Hakka: Thong ngin, Min: Teng lang, Indonesian: "Tionghoa Indonesia", or (derisively) "Cina totok") are ethnically Chinese people living in Indonesia, as a result of centuries of overseas Chinese migration.

Chinese Indonesian people are diverse in their origins, timing and circumstances of immigration to Indonesia, and level of ties to China. Many trace their origins to the southern parts of China, such as Fujian, Guangdong and Hainan provinces.

Broadly speaking, there were three waves of immigration of ethnic Chinese to Southeast Asia in general and Indonesia in particular. The first wave was spurred by trading activities dating back to the time of Zheng He's voyage in the early 15th century, the second wave around the time of the Opium War, and the third wave around the first half of the 20th century.

Chinese Indonesians whose ancestors immigrated in the first and second waves, and have thus become "creolised" or "huan-na" (in Hokkien) by marriage and assimilation, are called Peranakan Chinese.The more recent Chinese immigrants and those who are still culturally Chinese are called "Cina Totok".

Most Chinese who migrated to Indonesia came as traders or labourers. Colonial policies made it difficult for Chinese to acquire land, and the only region with a significant Chinese farmer population was West Kalimantan. The largest populations of Chinese Indonesians today are in the cities of Jakarta, Surabaya, Medan, Pekan Baru, Semarang, Pontianak, Makassar, Palembang, and Bandung.


The economic activities and wealth of the Chinese community in Indonesia is very diverse; many are labourers and small-scale merchants, and others are businessmen. Most are identified as ethnic Chinese in official documents, but many are not, for a variety of reasons. In many parts of Indonesia, however, they are represented among the wealthier classes out of proportion with their small numbers.

According to a survey of corporations listed on the Jakarta Stock Exchange, the Chinese Indonesian community was thought to own or operate a large fraction of major Indonesian corporations. This is a result of a long government restriction for Chinese Indonesians from going into academia, public service, and other governmental occupations.

Some, however, believe that this overestimates the influence of Chinese Indonesians on the economy: for example, despite being considered to be under control of Chinese Indonesians in research, the Salim Group is actually controlled by Liem Sioe Liong, two pribumi relatives of then President Suharto, and Ibrahim Risaid, an Acehnese associate of one of Suharto's cousins.

Such simplifications fuel the stereotype that Chinese Indonesian people are extremely wealthy, a common perception in Indonesian society. In part, as a result of this perceived dominance of the economy, the Chinese Indonesian community has frequently been viewed with suspicion by indigenous (Pribumi) Indonesians.


Most Chinese Indonesians are descended from Chinese ethnic groups, originally from the south-eastern part of China. These ethnic groups include:
* Hakka
* Hainanese
* Hokkien (Min Nan speakers)
* Cantonese
* Hokchia
* Teochew

Ethnic concentrations

* Peranakan - Jakarta, Java, Makassar
* Hakka - Aceh, North Sumatra, Batam, South Sumatra, Bangka-Belitung, Lampung, Java, West Kalimantan, South Sulawesi, Ambon and Jayapura.
* Hainan - Riau (Pekanbaru and Batam), and Manado.
* Hokkien - North Sumatra, Bagansiapiapi, Pekanbaru, Padang, Jambi, South Sumatra, Bengkulu, Java, Bali (especially in Denpasar and Singaraja), Banjarmasin, Kutai, Sumbawa, Manggarai, Kupang, Makassar, Kendari, Central Sulawesi, Manado, and Ambon.
* Cantonese - Jakarta, Makassar and Manado.
* Hokchia - Java (especially in Bandung, Cirebon, and Surabaya), Banjarmasin
* Teochew - North Sumatra, Riau, South Sumatra, and West Kalimantan (especially in Pontianak and Ketapang).


Pre-colonial era

There was little direct Chinese involvement in what is now Indonesia before the fifteenth century. Trade between China and the Indonesian archipelago was in the hands of Indonesians, rather than Chinese. The standard word for a Chinese trading vessel, "junk", is derived from the Javanese word "jong", which described large teak vessels that trekked north from Southeast Asia to southern China. Chinese sources, however, are useful external sources of information on early Indonesia, including the records of a few emissaries such as Fa Hien, a Buddhist monk who passed the region in the fifth century on his way to India. Kingdoms of Indonesia and China had some relationships that thrived during the Tang dynasty.

Ironically, though most of the present Chinese Indonesians are not Muslims, some of the earliest Islamic evangelists in Java ("Wali Songo", or the Nine Ambassadors) were of Chinese ancestry. At least four of those nine were original Chinese or Chinese descendants: Sunan Ampel, Sunan Bonang (son of Ampel and a Chinese woman), Sunan Kalijaga, and Sunan Gunungjati. [id icon cite book | last = Muljana | first = Slamet | title = Runtuhnya Kerajaan Hindu-Jawa Dan Timbulnya Negara-Negara Islam Di Nusantara | publisher = LKiS | year = 2005 | location = Yogyakarta | pages = 86-101 | id = ISBN 9798451163] One theory suggests that Chinese traders were among the first to bring Islam to Indonesia, including those who came to Semarang under the leadership of Admiral Zheng He, or Sam Po Kong, in the fifteenth century. Zheng He himself was a Muslim from the Hui minority ethnic group in China. Other theories based on documented accounts of Indian Gujarati traders and merchants, long familiar with Java, suggest they introduced Sufism there and the Malay Peninsula.Fact|date=January 2008

Since the voyages of Zheng He, many Chinese considered the region as an attractive trading partner.

Early Colonial Era (1500s-1800s)

Favored position under the Dutch

The largest waves of Chinese migration happened during early to middle Dutch colonial era (sixteenth to nineteenth centuries) seeking to find new opportunities of trade.

Race relations between the Chinese Indonesians and native Indonesians ("pribumi") have always been problematic, and remain so up to the present. Some commentators trace this to the Dutch era when colonial policy favored the ethnic Chinese, and in so doing established their economic dominance over the region.who

The caste system established by the Dutch also made it disadvantageous for ethnic Chinese to assimilate into the native population. Assimiliation would mean being placed in the lowest estate together with the natives. Ethnic Chinese, together with Arabs and other "foreign orientals" were members of the second estate. The first estate was reserved for Europeans and, ironically, Japanese and Siamese nationals as well. [cite news | first = Desi | last = Utomo | title = INDONESIA: Discrimination against ethnic Chinese | url = | publisher = Green Left Weekly | date = 2000-05-24 | accessdate = 2008-08-06]

As such, the Dutch were among the early practitioners of a classic colonial strategy practiced in many other times and places by displacing and destroying native systems of authority through favoring specific ethnic or religious minorities. They become props of colonial rule and a buffer between itself and the majority indigenous population. (France and Britain would eventually use the local Christian and Jewish communities in the Arab world in the same way.)

Having the favor of the Dutch and being considered by "intelligent, diligent, and capable of overseeing Dutch plantations", many ethnic Chinese supported colonial rule. Indeed, in the early years of the Dutch East Indies, ethnic Chinese actively helped strengthen Dutch domination in the region. Souw Beng Kong, the "Kapitan Cina" ("Captain of the Chinese") of Banten, for example, organized a large-scale immigration of Chinese under his rule to Batavia in the seventeenth century. This significantly destabilized the regional economy and facilitated Dutch conquest of the Sultanate of Banten.

As a reward, Souw was made the first "Kapitein der Chinezen" of Batavia in 1619. His successors and later, the "Majoors der Chinezen", were given landed fiefdoms and the Dutch-invented hereditary title of "Sia" by the colonial government.

Among them, these aristocratic Peranakan families controlled a great deal of Java's land and wealth, confiscated by the Dutch from the native ("pribumi") aristocracy. Through the officership system they governed the Peranakan and ethnic Chinese populations of Batavia. The system was later extended to other centers of Dutch power in Java and the rest of the archipelago. [] Deprived of land, the aristocracy was lacked the economic resources (income via agricultural, livestock and timber products, alluvial and subterranean mineral resources, most particularly gold and gemstones) vital to fund their kingdoms, princedoms and dukedoms. Essentially bankrupted by theft of their land and forced transition to Chinese ownership, the aristocracy was hamstrung to raise military force against the usurpers.

Both the Dutch and the Chinese participated in the trade of thousands of Javanese slaves. Javanese considered problematic were shipped off to Chinese plantations in Sumatra.Fact|date=January 2008

Massacre of 1740

In their position, the Chinese often did not receive friendly attitudes from the Dutch. In the early decades of the eighteenth century, tensions began to build. In some ways, it resulted from the fact that having settled in and around Batavia ever since its foundation, the Chinese had come to be a major element in its economic life.

Chinese workers were greatly involved in building Batavia and cultivating the adjacent agricultural areas. And Chinese traders, who were arriving in growing numbers, made the Dutch East India Company (VOC) increasingly dependent on them.

The VOC's came to make most of its profits from trade among different Asian destinations rather than back to the Netherlands themselves - and it was naturally the Chinese traders resident in Batavia who had the best contacts in China.

Dutch and Chinese needed each other - which in theory should have ensured a good relationship. But an element among the Dutch colonists came to increasingly resent the situation of the Chinese being their effective social equals and economic rivals. The Chinese traders, like the Dutch ones, were tax-payers - which was an economic burden but also conferred considerable privileges (a phenomenon comparable to the later resentment of French settlers in Algeria to local Christians and Jews being legally their equals).

What set off a cataclysm of hatred and bloodshed was not only cliquish Chinese trading but the other major branch of their economic activity on Java: agricultural work carried out by poor Chinese coolies who were imported and employed by rich Chinese entrepreneurs. Such coolies were, for example, the dominant part of the labor force employed in the sugar plantations at the Ommelanden of Batavia, a major field of economic activity.

The importation of ever more coolies caused an enormous increase in the Chinese population in the VOC-ruled area of Batavia and its environs, and they came to constitute nearly half of the total population just before 1740. Already in 1690, the colonial authorities had imposed severe limitations on further immigration from China. This did not have, however, the effect of stopping the importation of more coolies. Rather, they continued to be imported through the payment of bribes to the authorities, and were all the more dependent on their employers (usually Chinese themselves) and susceptible to lucrative exploitation.

From about 1720 the sugar market went through a deepening crisis, with the markets in Europe becoming saturated, and the plantations of Java facing sharp competition from cheaper Brazilian sugar. Many of the sugar planters went bankrupt, and the authorities took no step to alleviate the situation of the workers thrown out of their jobs - with the result being bands of unemployed, hungry and desperate coolies turning to brigandage.

Belatedly, at July, 1740 the colonial authorities decreed that all the coolies of the Ommelanden were to be transferred to Dutch-run plantations at Galle in Southern Ceylon. That might or might not have been the true intention, but rumors rife among the coolies were that the Dutch actually intended to throw them overboard once out of sight of the shore. Instead of boarding the ships, the coolies burst into an all-out revolt, with roaming bands robbing and killing in the countryside and some even attempting to attack Batavia itself.

There is no evidence that the better off Chinese living inside the walled area of Batavia, some five thousand in number, were planning to join the rebellious coolies outside. However, many of the Dutch inhabitants did have such suspicions. On October 9, 1740, the order was issued to search the houses of all the Chinese residents in Batavia. This soon degenerated into an all-out, three-day long massacre - with Chinese being massacred in their homes, and earlier captured Chinese being killed out of hand in prisons and hospitals.

A preacher fanned the flames from the pulpit, declaring that the killing of Chinese was "God's Will", and the colonial government itself reportedly posted a bounty for decapitated Chinese heads. The number of victims in these three days is variously estimated at between five thousand and ten thousand. The name Kali Angke (Hokkien : 紅溪) ("Red River" in Indonesian) is said to date from that time, recalling the blood flowing into the river. [ [ Dutch East Indies Murder of the Chinese on Batavia in 1740 Aad 'Arcengel' Engelfriet ] ] [ [

Afterwards, the "restoration of order" was proclaimed, with surviving Chinese henceforth ghettoized in specific quarters of Batavia and other Dutch-ruled cities. The Chinese area of Batavia was designated Glodok, where many Chinese still live in present-day Jakarta.

Following the massacre, the Dutch Governor-General Adriaan Valckenier was arrested and required to account for himself to the Heeren XVII ("Seventeen Lords", the VOC directors in Amsterdam). He died in prison, however, and the charges against him were declared "annulled by death". The affair continued to crop up in later periods, especially in times of tension [Activist Arcengel quotes an anti-colonial pamphlet of 1902, the time of the bloody "Pacification of Aceh", stating: "The murder of 10,000 harmless Chinese was never punished!"> [] .]

Continued Immigration and division into three sub-communities

Even such bloody events did not put an end to the continued Chinese emigration to the Indies, where economic opportunities not available in China itself outweighed the dangers of discrimination or persecution.

Earlier Chinese immigrants had much closer ties toward mainland China. This was manifested in their strong desire to return home and consideration of the Indies as yet another temporary settlement.

Attitudes started changing from the middle eighteenth century when the Qing emperor of the time, Qian Long, considered these expatriates to be "turncoats" and thereby a threat to China. Still, while Emperor Qian Long adopted a general "closed-door policy", there was no evidence that Chinese expatriates were banned from returning to their original homeland.

Many of them, however, found the Indies an increasingly attractive abode. The hostile and oppressive Manchu government of the Qing dynasty brought even more migrants from China. Lulled by comfortable lives, some of them no longer associated themselves with mainland China. They were called "Cina Baba"s or Peranakans. Some "Cina Baba"s intermarried with indigenous Indonesian ("pribumi"s), often the slave-girl of a coollie.

Most, however, identified themselves as Dutchmen, embraced Christianity, generally enjoyed higher education and social status, and mimicking Western lifestyles considered themselves the more refined. They got to be called "Qiao Sheng" (literally, "foreign-born"). Beginning in the late Nineteenth Century, most of the Dutch-invented aristocratic "Sia" families underwent rapid westernization. By the early decades of the twentieth century, many of them—especially those domiciled around Batavia—had become "more Dutch than the Dutch themselves". The Sias were consequently some of the strongest proponents of colonial rule.

Those who still maintained ties toward China, whose main belief was Confucianism, considered "Cina Baba"s and "Qiao Sheng"s unfilial, all the more so because "Cina Baba"s and "Qiao Sheng"s typically shunned Chinese tradition. The ones who still maintained "purity" were called "Cina Totok"s.

These three groups of Chinese Indonesians had starkly different nationalistic views and tendencies. At the time
*"Qiao Sheng"s were more inclined toward the Dutch;
*"Cina Totok"s were more inclined toward mainland China; and
*"Cina Baba"s were more toward the indigenous population of the Indies.

Late Colonial period (end of the 1800s to 1945)

Changing Dutch policies and decline of the Sia aristocracy

By the 1920s and 1930s, the long standing hold over the economy of the old Sia families, Qiao Sheng par excellence, was systematically destroyed by the very Dutch colonial government they supported . Following Queen Wilhelmina's speech to the Estates General (the Dutch Parliament) in which she insisted that a "moral debt" was owed to the people of the East Indies, the colonial government implemented its so-called "social policy". This was aimed at ending feudalism in Java and breaking up the large estates of the Peranakan pretender aristocracy.

It was the Chinese Sias, more than the native aristocracy, who suffered from this measure. The native aristocracy did not own much land, due to the fact that the Dutch had generations prior forcibly confiscated and split the former Kingdom of Majapahit into four. The Dutch, to remedy the unfavourabale and indeed racist treatment of the natives, initiated a program of civil service employment for suitably pliable upper middle-class semi-aristocratic families, known as priyayi.

Dutch compulsory acquisition of Peranakan fiefdoms destroyed many of the older Chinese landowning families. While some successfully managed to get into business, most former Sias—their title becoming obsolete by the 1940s—were swamped in economic power by Totok Chinese. This latter group remains, even today, the most powerful economic group in Indonesia. [ [ The Chinese in the Collective Memory of the Indonesian Nation ] ]

Concomittant with the decline of the feudal-type Sias, Chinese Indonesians underwent a process of modernization and of building up Western-type political and social institutions. Chinese Indonesians built the first of their schools in Surabaya in the 1920s—one of the first non-Western schools in Java—and by the 1960s, many Chinese schools had been established in the major cities. The first Chinese newspapers were also printed during this era, and several Chinese political parties were established. These parties ranged from those who saw themselves as part of the Indonesian nationalist movement, and those who felt that Chinese Indonesians were still Chinese citizens - a question that was left unresolved for many decades. Fact|date=February 2007

Reflections of Chinese mainland politics

Later waves of migrants still maintained ties to China, mainly by supporting Chinese nationalistic movements to overthrow the Qing dynasty. Although the support was mainly monetary, some Chinese Indonesians were actively involved in the inside politics, especially so during the Sun Yat Sen era. "Cina Totok"s were particularly active.

Although the Chinese Communists were largely unsupported at first, from the 1930s on the Communists' effort to drive the Japanese occupants out of China gained the support of many "Cina Totok"s and even some "Qiao Sheng"s. Thus, Indonesian Chinese manifestations of support towards mainland China became divided into two camps, parallel with the civil war sides in China itself: Nationalistic (Kuomintang or Guómín Dǎng) and Communistic (Gòngchǎn Dǎng).

ympathy for Indonesian nationalism

At the turn of the 20th century, however, "Cina Babas"s were increasingly assimilated into Indonesian culture. Younger generations of Cina Totoks still tried to maintain ties with China.

Although the Dutch had given the Chinese Indonesians a special status, they were becoming increasingly oppressive and discriminative against all Chinese Indonesians. So, all three groups - "Qiao Sheng"s, "Cina Baba"s, and "Cina Totok"s - were more and more cooperative toward the Indonesian national movement, especially in providing monetary support.

This comment is disputed as much documentary evidence amply illustrates overwhelming Chinese support for Dutch paramilitary attempts to crush the Independence movement thereby incurring long-standing enmity of the Indonesian native.

More and more Chinese Indonesians were involved in Indonesian politics. "Cina Totok"s typically set up specific Chinese political parties which aimed at an Indonesia-China alliance and established newspapers. "Cina Baba"s and "Qiao Sheng"s typically joined nationalist parties jointly with "pribumi"s. Some of them, serving as officers in the Dutch Army and later the Japanese one, but never used their positions to help the national movement.

They were also among the pioneers of Indonesian newspapers. In their fledgling publishing companies, they published their own political ideas along with contributions from other Indonesian writers. In November 1928, the Chinese weekly Sin Po was the first paper to openly publish the text of the national anthem "Indonesia Raya". On occasion, those involved in such activities ran a concrete risk of imprisonment or even of their lives, as the Dutch colonial authorities banned nationalistic publications and activities.

Chinese Indonesians were active in supporting the independence movement during the 1940s Japanese occupation, when the all but one Chinese Indonesian political party - Huaqiao Zhonghui (華僑中會) - were banned by the Japanese military authorities. Some notable pro-independence activists were Siauw Giok Tjhan and Liem Koen Hian, but sadly he died as a People's Republic of China citizen (Kusuma,2004:27). Also sadly that Yap Tjwan Bing, a member of Panitia Persiapan Kemerdekaan Indonesia, in 1960's became a U.S.A. citizen.

Indonesian National Revolution

"BPUPKI" ("Body for Investigating Preparation Attempts of Indonesia's Independence", Badan Penyelidik Usaha-usaha Persiapan Kemerdekaan Indonesia) — had been originally set up under the Japanese and with their backing - but it outlived their rule and had a central role in proclaiming the Indonesian Declaration of Independence at 17 August 1945 - making clear that the return of Dutch colonial rule was unacceptable. During the Indonesian National Revolution, many Chinese Indonesians supported the Independence movement. BPUPKI's membership included six ethnic Chinese members who contributed to the drafting of the Indonesian Constitution in 1945.Fact|date=February 2007

There was discussion on the formation of all-Chinese Indonesian units in the Revolution [] , similar to the formation of the all-Japanese American Nisei units in World War II. This suggestion was ultimately rejected, and the ethnic Chinese were urged instead to join their local pro-Independence groups.

Due to the lack of such clearly-defined ethnic unit, the precise number of Chinese Indonesians who took part in the Indonesian National Revolution, and their percentage of the Chinese Indonesian community as a whole, remains disputed. It is a sensitive issue due to it sometimes being linked to the post-war status of Chinese Indonesians and their equal status (or lack of one) in the Indonesia created by that war.

In 1946, the Consul General of the Republic of China, Chiang Chia Tung, expressed in Malang the ROC's support for Indonesia's independence.

Post-independence era

During the 1945–1950 National Revolution to secure independence from the Dutch, few Chinese Indonesians were involved in the Indonesian Republican army. At that time, the economy plummeted and the taxes increased dramatically. Everyday goods, such as soap and cutlery, were rare; much and had been confiscated by the Japanese and Dutch for their own armies. Chinese Indonesians contributed in the smuggling of these goods. However, smuggling became increasingly difficult as the Dutch continued to re-establish their foothold in Indonesia and armed conflicts were inevitable.

Following independence, the Japanese and Dutch companies were deserted. The new government sold the companies at very cheap prices, and Chinese Indonesians quickly assimilated these companies. However, many "pribumis" sought to curb this effort, and they were successful in accusing Chinese Indonesians of unpatriotic ways during the war (as they were rarely involved in armed conflicts). The fledgling Indonesian government forced many to relinquish acquired properties. This would be the first of many Chinese Indonesian restrictions on personal rights ("see list"). Political activity was greatly reduced, but not eliminated.

Discrimination worsened as the economy became increasingly dominated by Chinese Indonesians. The "pribumis" decried the government's lackluster effort to provide a level playing field and sought even more aggressive predicaments. This further escalated the tension of the already uneasy relationship between "pribumis" and Chinese Indonesian, as "pribumis" always considered Chinese Indonesians as the agents of the colonials. The tendency of Chinese Indonesians to flock together in "Pecinan" or Chinatowns, segregated from the "pribumis", exacerbated the situation.

In 1959, President Soekarno approved PP 10/1959, a directive that forced Chinese Indonesians to close their businesses in rural areas and relocate to urban areas. Enforcement was brutal; in one 1967 incident in Western Kalimantan, 42,000 accused separatists were slaughtered.

In protest, many "Cina Totoks" returned to either mainland China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan, only to find that they were not welcomed there either. Ironically, they were not regarded as "pure Chinese", regardless of their effort of maintaining a "pure Chinese breed". The unfortunate news of the early migrants was widespread among the Chinese Indonesians. They soon found themselves as neither Indonesian nor Chinese. Some decided to move to some other places, like Singapore or Malaysia.

Group divisions among "Cina Baba"s, "Qiao Sheng"s, and "Cina Totok"s were blurred because Soeharto treated them alike. They were all forced to change their names to Indonesian sounding ones. This law is considered as one of the most humiliating ones to those in the Chinese community in Indonesia since by doing so, they are forced to lose their family name. Between 1965 and 1975, army and police officers were rampant in abusing Chinese Indonesians, such as openly robbing and raping their families. During this time, police could abuse any people using Chinese language. The only way to survive during this harsh period was by using bribes.

In addition, those who were considered as heroes of Indonesian independence, such as Siauw Giok Tjhan and Liem Koen Hian, were either brutally executed, exiled, or jailed. Those who protested were silently murdered. None of them were bestowed national hero status. It effectively discouraged any Chinese Indonesian of the time to dedicate their lives for Indonesia.

Since Chinese Indonesians were banned from all aspects of life except from the economy and industry, they concentrated their effort in those areas and became remarkably successful. It opened opportunities for government and military officers to levy bribes from Chinese Indonesian businessmen. Bribes and corruption soon became a norm. This widened the gap between them and "pribumis". The "pribumi" accused Chinese Indonesians with colluding with the government and thereby poisoning the entire political system. On the other hand, Chinese Indonesians felt that they were treated unfairly and the government was much more lenient toward the "pribumis".

As more and more discrimination and enmity accumulated, Chinese Indonesians increasingly identified themselves as a separate group and did not like to be referred to as "Indonesians". Although younger generations did not as strictly follow traditions as the older ones did, they still felt they were different from Indonesians.

During this era, younger generations adopted western culture more and more as they perceived it as being more superior. They were more aligned toward western countries such as the United States or the United Kingdom. The westernization became popular as many parents sent their children abroad to western countries.

The Jakarta riot of 1998 targeted many Chinese Indonesians. The riot itself drew condemnations from Chinese speaking countries. Suharto was allegedly the mastermind of this riot, but it misfired. Suffering from lootings and arsons, many Chinese Indonesians fled from Indonesia. Ironically, they found western countries were more accepting than Indonesia, their country of birth. Even after the riot subsided, many of them did not want to return.

Those who decided to stay in Indonesia found relief when Suharto stepped down as president. They hoped that the new president would restore their status and end the enmity of centuries long.

Early in the reformation era, the government focused on stabilizing the economy and security. Discrimination was still rampant. However, Chinese Indonesians gained courage to express themselves in limited ways, which were otherwise impossible in the Soeharto era for fear of his heavy-handed tactics. Unfortunately, there were still many officers loyal to Soeharto who enforced the discriminatory laws. It was not for the sake of ideology, but rather for their own benefits.

The New Order era

In the 1960s, many government regulations, such as PP 10/1959, restricted Chinese Indonesians from the rural areas and forced many to relocate to big cities.

President Suharto became a strong advocate for Chinese assimilation rather than integration. As part of 1967's 'Basic Policy for the Solution of the Chinese Problem' and other measures, all but one Chinese-language papers were closed, all Chinese religious expressions had to be confined to their homes, Chinese-language schools were phased out, Chinese script in public places was banned, and Chinese were encouraged to take on Indonesian-sounding names. [cite book |last=Schwarz |first=A. |year=1994 |title=A Nation in Waiting: Indonesia in the 1990s |publisher=Westview Press |pages=page 106|isbn=1-86373-635-2] Most of this legislation were revoked following Suharto's resignation in 1998.Fact|date=February 2008

Political pressures in the 1970s and 1980s restricted the role of the Chinese Indonesian in politics, academics, and the military. As a result, they were thereafter constrained professionally to becoming entrepreneurs and professional managers in trade, manufacturing, and banking. In the 1970s, following the failed alleged Communist coup attempt in 1965, there was a strong sentiment against the Chinese Indonesians, who were accused of being Communist collaborators.

Most Chinese Indonesians are not Muslim, further generating negative sentiments from the mostly Muslim natives. This is ironic in light of the fact that some of the earliest Muslim evangelists in Java (who were called the "Wali Songo" or 'The Nine Ambassadors') were of Chinese ancestry. A historical theory even suggests that the first people who brought Islamic faith to Indonesia were the Chinese traders, especially those who came to Semarang under the leadership of Sam Po Kong or Admiral Zheng He. Zheng He was not a Han, but a Muslim from a minority ethnic group in China.

Various government policies banned Chinese language teaching, speaking, and publication. Established schools and colleges run by Chinese Indonesian foundations were nationalized and their facilities seized without compensation. They were converted to state or "pribumi"-run schools such as Universitas Res Publica, which became Universitas Trisakti. A presidential directive forced Chinese Indonesians to abandon their Chinese names and adopt Indonesian names. Anti-Chinese sentiments increased among the "pribumi" Indonesians and anti-Chinese pogroms were frequent. In identity cards, all Chinese Indonesians were designated as "WNI" ("Warga Negara Indonesia", or 'Citizen of Indonesia'), a euphemism for "ethnic Chinese" as opposed to just "Indonesian" for the "pribumi" Indonesians. This made it easy for government officials to extract bribes, and has been compared to Jews under Hitler being required to wear the Star of David badge. Ethnic Chinese must also hold certificates that say they have rejected Chinese citizenship, despite being native-born and/or descended from a line that had lived in Indonesia for generations.

These highly discriminatory laws are believed by some as a concerted government effort at cultural genocide. Those Chinese Indonesians who could not stand the discrimination fled. The "Totoks" returned to mainland China—only to be consequently trapped in the Cultural Revolution — and the "Peranakans", to the old masters' country, the Netherlands. In 1998, preceding the fall of Suharto's 32-year presidency, large riots targeted the Chinese Indonesians in another series of pogroms. Chinese homes were looted and burned, and many Chinese people were raped or killed [] . The events in 1998 were significant because unlike earlier pogroms against Chinese Indonesians, due to the Internet, this incident spread worldwide in real-time, and aroused the interest and feelings of the ethnic Chinese around the world,leading to demonstrations against Indonesia in many countries with significant Chinese populations and protests to the government of Indonesia. [] [] After the tragedy, a large number of Chinese Indonesians fled to other countries, such as the USA, Australia, Singapore, and the Netherlands. []

Because of discrimination, most Chinese Indonesians were not politically active and could not lobby for legislation to protect their own interests, despite their economic affluence. The situation is different in neighboring Malaysia where the overseas Chinese have been both politically and economically active despite being a minority in a similar environment — better off economically in a Muslim majority country.

Despite laws and public opinion against the Chinese Indonesians, many have succeeded in fields other than business, most notably in the sport of badminton, the most popular competitive sport in Indonesia. Indonesian athletes dominated the sport from the 1960s to the 1990s. Many of the beloved players and coaches are Chinese Indonesians, such as Tan Joe Hok, Rudy Hartono, Christian Hadinata, Tjun Tjun, Johan Wahjudi, Ade Chandra, Liem Swie King, Ivana Lie, Verawaty, Susi Susanti, Alan Budikusuma, Ardy Wiranata, and Heryanto Arbi.

Recent history, post-Reformasi Era

Soon after Abdurrahman Wahid came into power, he quickly abolished some of the discriminatory laws in efforts to improve race relationships. He encouraged Chinese Indonesian literature and culture. He also designated the Chinese lunar new year as a national holiday.

Chinese Indonesians are now in the era of rediscovery. Many younger generations, who cannot speak Mandarin due to the ban decades earlier, choose to learn Mandarin, as many learning centers open throughout the country. Stores now can openly show Chinese characters. Dragon dances and Lion dances are shown in public in many places without special permits or supervision.

The Chinese culture is starting to be embraced by even the popular media, who widely covers Chinese New Year celebrations and even broadcasts TV shows on Feng Shui and news in Chinese language in Indonesian television and radio, like Metro TV and Cakrawala broadcast radio.

A small number of Chinese Indonesians also regained the courage to get involved in politics and created new political parties, from one, (Kwik Kian Gie) was appointed minister in 1999. Chinese Indonesians adopted the term "Tionghoa" (中華/中华, Zhōnghuá) to identify themselves. The term "Cina" is deemed by some as derogatory today due to its unfortunate derogatory use in the past.


Some of the ethnic Chinese also speak Mandarin and other Chinese dialects. In Medan, on Sumatra Island, almost all Chinese speak Hokkien. In Kalimantan, the Chinese ethnic community speaks Teochew.Fact|date=April 2007

However, the presence of the Chinese language in Indonesia deserves special note. Unlike other local/ethnic languages ("bahasa daerah"), the use of Chinese was prohibited following the Overthrow of Sukarno Fact|date=April 2007. As a result, schools did not offer Chinese language courses. The political, legal, and social stigma associated with Chinese language usage and the difficulty of finding Chinese language materials eventually resulted in most of the younger Chinese generation in big cities like Jakarta, Bandung, and Solo losing their parents' language. Only during the term of President Abdurachman Wahid did international schools began offering English and Mandarin Chinese courses. Because of these changes, the use of Chinese language materials has seen a resurgence and some TV and radio services were able to start broadcasting material in Chinese again, like in the 1950s and early 1960s.

ee also

* Famous Chinese Indonesians
* Anti-Chinese legislation in Indonesia
* Jakarta Riots of May 1998
* Demographics of Indonesia
* Malaysian Chinese
* Peranakan
* Overseas Chinese
* Indonesian-sounding names adopted by Chinese Indonesians



* Mark Ländler, "Indonesia's Ethnic Chinese Feel Their Neighbors' Wrath," New York Times, May 16, 1998
* Ong Hok Ham. "Riwayat Tionghoa Peranakan di Jawa" (Story of Chinese Descendant in Java): A Collection of Ong Hok Ham's Articles in "Star Weekly" 1958-1960". Komunitas Bambu. 2005
* [ "Correcting the myth about the dominance of ethnic Chinese in Indonesian business," Business World (Philippines), 8 January 1999]
* [ Tim Johnson, "Chinese diaspora: Indonesia," BBC News]
* The Myth of Chinese Domination, By George J. Adijondro ( [] )
* Indonesia Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998 by the U.S. Department of State [] .
* INDONESIA: Five years after May 1998 []
* [ Interview of Jusuf Kalla: Businessmen will be Treated Differently] (In Indonesian).
* [ Protests of some Indonesian Chinese Organizations in the US towards racist remark of VP Kalla] .
* Khoon Choy, Lee; A Fragile Nation: The Indonesian Crisis (Chapter 9).
* Khoon Choy, Lee; Indonesia, between myth and reality.
* Christine Susanna Tjhin, [ Minority participation and democratization] , The Jakarta Post - September 3, 2004.
* Christine Susanna Tjhin, [ More Chinese Indonesians become actively engaged in politics] , The Jakarta Post - March 29, 2004.
* Graaf, H. J. de (Hermanus Johannes), 1899-(?), "Chinese Muslims in Java in the 15th and 16th centuries : the Malay Annals of Semarang and Cerbon / translated and provided with comments by H.J. de Graaf and Th. G.Th. Pigeaud; edited by M.C. Ricklefs. Publisher: [Melbourne] : Monash University, 1984. Description: xiii, 221 p. : folded map ; 21 cm. ISBN 0867464194 : Series: Monash papers on Southeast Asia ; no. 12
* [ "Landmark Legal Decision May Open U.S. Border to Chinese from Indonesia" by Jemma Purdey, Ph.D. - 2/1/2005]
*Kusuma,RMAB, "Lahirnya UUD 1945".Publisher:Badan Penerbit Fakultas Hukum Universitas Indonesia, 2004. ISBN 979-8972-28-7

Further reading

*Purdey, Jemma, "Anti-Chinese violence in Indonesa, 1996-1999", Leiden 2006, KITLV

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