Anti-Chinese feeling in Indonesia, 1996-1999.
Jemma Purdey, in Anti-Chinese Violence in Indonesia, 1996-1999, suggests that the anti-Chinese violence which periodically occurred prior to May 1998 had its origins in the policy of the Suharto government of marginalising the ethnic Chinese population, restricting them to certain, mainly business, roles, and portraying them as uncaring and corrupt.
Frustrated and poor "native" Indonesians who might be expected to take out their anger on government officials instead were diverted by the government into venting those frustrations on the Chinese. So, for the Suharto regime, the Chinese were a convenient scapegoat, and a provided an important safety valve for the expression of the people's passions, and allowed mob violence to be directed at targets other than the regime. Normally violence against Chinese was directed largely against their property, rather than their persons. (see Pogroms in East Java 1965-66 for a couple of examples.)
The riots which occurred in Jakarta in May of 1998 however were of a different nature, says Purdey. They seemed to have been organised, with military-like precision, rather than spontaneous displays of rebellion, and involved the use of rape against Chinese women, although the numbers of victims is disputed.