Anti-Chinese Violence

Feb 6th, 2007, in News, by

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.)

Anti-Chinese Violence in Indonesia, 1996-1999.

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.

Purdey points out however that it is only a minority of the indigenous population which is given to participating in mob violence against ethnic Chinese. eurekastreet

288 Comments on “Anti-Chinese Violence”

  1. zapata says:

    This is originally a Phd thesis. It is well-researched. Her book covers many issues which ranges from the representation, identity, riot, human rights, to truth-seeking efforts.

    Her article on academic journal Asian Survey is also very interesting. She is looking at the role of TGPF (Fact Finding Commission) for the rape case within the political transition context.

  2. Riccardo says:

    Will we be able to purchase it in Jakarta? Will it even be allowed in Indonesia?

  3. zapata says:

    I don’t think this book is banned in Indonesia. Anything can be sold in Indonesia as long as it doesn’t suggest that the communist party did not make a coup attempt in 1965.

  4. 1ndra says:

    It should not be banned, this book could teach the people about the crime/dark morality that time.

  5. Sayid says:

    In most parts of the modern developed world, racism is considered by most people as both a moral and an intellectual short-coming. The developed world hasn’t always been like that.

    It sounds like it isn’t just the Indonesian government/military that are the problem, but also many people in Indonesian society. I think it would be a good thing to spread the following message to Indonesians:

    There is more variation within a race than between races. All members of a race act as individuals or groups, but never as an entire race. Some types of wrong doing are more common among a certain race but not everyone in that race is guilty of that wrong doing. Punishing an entire race for the actions of a few individuals of that race, will result in the punishment of many innocent people.

    When the innocent are punished, they are likely to fight back. If they can’t fight back directly at the perpetrators, in an attempt to maintain their dignity they may resort to crime or terrorism towards the people who the perpetrators identify with i.e. people of the same race/religion/nationality. This is a reason for terrorism; not a justification. There is no justification. Indonesians need to break out of this cycle of prejudice.

    Not all Muslims are guilty of harming innocent Christians and vice versa. Not all Chinese are responsible for the sweat shop conditions many Javanese work in. Not all Javanese are responsible for the massacres of Chinese, Papuans or Timorese. However many people in Indonesia are guilty of wrong doings motivated by prejudice.

    Once the moral and intellectual short-comings of racism have been made widely known to Indonesians, a ‘truth and reconciliation commission’ could be formed. This was done in South Africa and other countries.


    The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was a court-like body assembled in South Africa after the end of Apartheid. Anybody who felt they had been a victim of violence could come forward and be heard at the TRC. Perpetrators of violence could also give testimony and request amnesty from prosecution. The hearings made international news and many sessions were broadcast on national television.

    The TRC was a crucial component of the transition to full and free democracy in South Africa and, despite some flaws, is generally – though not universally – regarded as successful.

  6. Dimp says:


    Not all Muslims are guilty of harming innocent Christians and vice versa. Not all Chinese are responsible for the sweat shop conditions many Javanese work in. Not all Javanese are responsible for the massacres of Chinese, Papuans or Timorese. However many people in Indonesia are guilty of wrong doings motivated by prejudice.

    Couldn’t say this better myself, bravo. If only more Indonesians think like this then we would not be in this rut.

  7. Bas says:

    Anti Chinese pogroms have occured regularly for centuries. 80% of my pribumi friends just hate Chinese and most of them don’t even know why. They just hate them.

  8. Andrew says:

    80% of my pribumi friends just hate Chinese and most of them don’t even know why. They just hate them.

    I know why – they’re just jealous.

  9. Ihaknt says:

    Andrew, I dont think jealousy comes to equation. Some people seriously just don’t know why. I had friends like that in Indo (in school), they just didn’t like any Chinese people for no reason. Now many of my friends are Chinese and in the end they are just people. It’s the same with how many Muslims just don’t like the Jews or the Christians. If you ask the children, for example, they just don’t know why they don’t like them. Some are taught to dislike them which is a very sad thing.

  10. Naga says:

    I dont think jealousy comes to equation. Some people seriously just don’t know why. I had friends like that in Indo (in school), they just didn’t like any Chinese people for no reason.

    It comes from a combination of jealousy and what you have been taught at home. Anti-Chinese sentiment is directed at their ruthless work ethic and close family connections.

    Pribumi’s and Bumiputra’s (in Malaysia) are jealous because they can’t replicate the commercial succcess of the Chinese, essentially due to their own cultural retardation, natural lethargy and their mental slavery to an out-dated religion.

  11. Madesh says:

    Most of the native Indonesians hate Chinese because most of the government policies discriminate Chinese in order to corner Chinese to become scapegoat whenever corruption issues emerge. It happens every now and then.
    So do not ever think that corruption will vanish in Indonesia as corruption has been the way of life of Indonesian.
    The question is do they still have nationalism value? I don’t think so.
    If we are talking about nationalism means the people’s interest is above all.
    As we can see in our daily life that every politician and official has put their own interest above the people’s interest by doing corruption, so where is their nationalism?

  12. Ihaknt says:

    Naga, anyone who works hard are entitled to their success and wealth. I personally don’t feel jealous because the Chinese I know do work hard, and if they are wealthy and successful then good on them, and if they are not then it’s just not their time yet – so they say being superstisious and all. Anyway, I agree, education at home of course plays a huge role on this too.

  13. Rockstar says:

    Yea, I agree Ihaknt. This happens 2 years ago when I went back to Indo for a holiday. I was at this parking lot in one of the malls in Bandung. A poor kid came to me and asked for a money, I -then- gave them 1000 rupiah. But he felt that he deserved more, so he kept following me and asked for more money. I said I didn’t have any money left. Surprisingly he said something that was very irritating and annoying as hell. Something about chinese being cheepo in the most extreme-racist words I’d ever heard from a kid around his age.

    So well we talked and long story short, I asked him why he hated chinese, he said his dad told him that chinese was this and that, basically all stupid and nonsense stuff. So I told him that I would give him 10000 rupiah if he could get the same amount of money from some random pribumi guys in 3 attempts. He didn’t get any. So I told him again, I would give him another 20000 rupiah if he did the same to some random chinese in 3 attempts. He apparently got nothing either.

    I told him that it didn’t take a chinese to be a cheepo, it all depended on people. Like it or not, it also depended on people’s mood too.

    After a long talking and lecture, I gave him another 20000 rupiah but sadly he simply just DID NOT get the message and maybe he also thought I was lame. 🙂

  14. Dimp says:

    Hi rockstar,

    After a long talking and lecture, I gave him another 20000 rupiah but sadly he simply just DID NOT get the message and maybe he also thought I was lame

    He will think that you can afford 20000 rups to begin with, but only gave him 1000 rups, so you are just another cheapo, haha.

    Some of my pribumi friends actually said after first day they met me that they were surprised to be able to be friends with non-pribumi, they said that beforehand they were afraid of the non-pribumi. This is what’s making it sad, people have been prejudiced before they know the persons.

  15. Ihaknt says:

    Well, I think it’s great that some people can see beyond the skin, race, etc. Without the skin, everyone is the same inside, bones, muscles, blood vessels, etc.


    Rockstar, that is exactly why I don’t give money to these kids. They are poor I know, but they are also exploited. I’d rather give them food. I do feel sorry for them and they display the ‘I’m poor please help me’ face. BUT, as soon as you give them money, just like what happened to you, they wanted more and more. The greed is there since early age. Instead of saying thank you they ngelunjak. Even worse if they grabbed your wallet and ran away or mugged you. That happens too you know. Or all of a sudden you are surrounded by a mob of small kids begging you. And if you don’t give anything they start verbally abusing you, sometimes even spit at you. As much as I hate doing this, but I tend to ignore them when they come to me.

  16. sgn says:

    China (PRC) is getting strong.
    They didn’t bother to Chinese overseas earlier, but time is change. I believe our goverment is now ‘underpressure’ by them to be nicer to Chinese-Indonesian.


  17. Julita says:

    I hope the day will come that they can look at overseas Chinese. These people as I said before, are mostly honest hard-working people.

  18. 1ndra says:

    Rockstar :
    Next time don’t give them money, they’re too “stupid” to understand your wise words.

    MUI or others have advised not to give money to poor person in the street because it makes them lazy and more and more, even more makes their numbers grow.
    Correct if I’m wrong I’ve forget who advised that but sure it comes from some kind of Islamic institution.

  19. Orgindo says:

    Sigh, these Chinese things. Most of Chinese-Indonesian I know already considered themselves as Indonesian, yet still they are treated like evil.

    Well, I often says to natives that if you hate Chinese, they have to remember that they are probably Chinese in a sense too. If you research the history long ago, then one will know that the so-called native Indonesian are also Chinese in a sense, only they migrate from earlier period.

  20. Ivan Rizki says:

    I think the pribumi has to introspect their self and stop teaching their children from generation to generation of hatred toward the chinese. This attitude will only reflect their apologetic mentality, I don’t believe the pribumis have no access to the equal share of economy in Indonesia as a matter of fact the “pribumis” are so called “pribumis” just because they are given the priority otherwise this “pribumis” will not perpetually using this word until today ( what a shame )

    Being success in business is not a gift people will hand over to you out of a blue you have to learn the way of doing business, the hardships, sacrifice if not losing all your entire savings. The Chinese willing to take all the hardship first and enjoy the fruits later , they invest their effort and energy toward progressive venture.

    The pribumi mostly pass down to their children of how to become a “pegawai” at the government office, to make matter worst when anything goes wrong they just blame the Chinese. Do you believe that the 4% of Chinese population can cause you so miserible?? Are we the pribumi so helpless?? Does the Chinese has all the tanks , armies, police plus all the NGO to oppress the pribumis??

    May be we the pribumis have to learn from the Chinese or at least ask the question “how can you make it happen in this country ?” The riot and looting of Chinese properties are all the indicator and the daily facts of the pribumis are infact adopting apologetic and inferior attitude not because of the Chinese.

    Why China today has almost 1 trillion dollar reserve in foregin exchange? Are they robbing at the pribumis?? if yes which pribumis ??

    Don’t get mad at the mirror if you are the one who ugly and filthy.

    Ivan Rizki
    ( yes I am a Pribumi but hate that word = inlander= inferior ) the Dutch called the Indonesian during the colonial time.


  21. Ivan Rizki says:

    The May 1998 riot was the evidence that Indonesia is an uncivilised country if I can comment they are on par like African countries Rwanda and Burundi.

  22. Pendi. S says:

    I believe personally the hate feeling towards chinese comes originally from the old era of the 60’s. Pribimis hate communism and anything resembles china, chinese-looking individuals and this thought process comes down through generations. The same can be said about japan in the 80’s when USA hates anything japanese and envies the success of the rising sun. But here in USA, we don’t gang rape japanese women, burn down their businesses/shops, attack or even kill japanese. What is lacking in Indonesia is education. People of Indonesia need to be educated well enough to appreciate things and learn to be successful. Frankly, education system in Indonesia is a big joke.

  23. Raden says:

    I disagree with Pendi’s statement on 11th April. Do not blame fully to Suharto/OrdeBaru about skeptism or negative stereotyping to the Indonesian chinese. The following are my observation based on the facts (not my opinion).

    1. Please take a look at Malaysia who have the closest culture & way of life like the majority of Indonesian. In Malaysia with different history under British colonialism, buy & large the majority of Malay bumiputera (they called it themselves instead of pribumi in Indonesia because of the Dutch said so) keep on asking more free goodies, more incentives, more special treatments in any kind of aspects from Parliament and Government until today. The logic supposedly the majority do not need more protection or incentive because they out number the indian & chinese races, what should they affraid off against? Malay Malaysia do not like their minorities too, the chinese & indian and there were no Suharto there as we knew the British law & policy are more properly done since ’50s compare to the Dutch’s one in Indonesia. But both countries have the similarities, the majority bumiputera or pribumi like to ask more preferential treatments from the authority or parliament.

    2. Both Malaysia & Indonesia have the majority of Malay race with majority are Islam believers. Both countries are equally struggling in managing their state-owned corporation’s profitability & ability to compete in the region & globally.

    3. Blaming on Collonial’s law inheritance that seperated inlanders from ‘chinese’ may not a valid argument since the similar stereotyping attitude against chinese race are happening as well in Malaysia. The Malay protection in government school’s admissions, in gov’t enterprises, in Military, etc, are a common phenomenom in both countries. Equally both Malaysia & Indonesia are not successful countries in the global world set-up.

    4. Blaming on the Global world model because of the Westerners is not a good attitude also, because there are 2 giant comunist countries like Russia & China who are proven of their success to embrace with the change transition. Now Rusia & China are a respectful partners of the USA.

    My temporary conclusion based on the above: the combined Malay race who happen to believe on Islamic way of life proved to be incompatible with the globalized world, hence it is natural that this race will NEVER like other race who practice the opposite side of their way of life. For example: dressing style, eating pork, drinking, workaholic work ethics (because it is an obstacle for those pray 5 times per day), etc.

    Do I say something wrong?, if it does please forgive me, I have no motive to corner Malay or Chinese but state the facts.

  24. Aluang anak Bayang says:

    Dear Raden, you have pointed out correctly that Indonesian pribumis’ culture resembled closely to that of the Malays’. A Javanese or Bugis or Sundanese in Malaysia will be called a Malay if he embraces Islam, same goes with Brunei. Infact, we share the same ancestral lineage. (That is why I was cheesed off when Achehnese said they are not Malay or Indonesian).

    You missed out on one major weaknesses. The Malays are genetically less competitive, lethargic in nature and easily self-contented. The Malay Dilemma by Dr. Mahatir is a reality check for us and I would recommend it to be read by all pribumis. It was banned at one time because it was deemed too racist toward the non-Malays, and belittling the Malays. But it is plain truth. If only we knew what our problem is.

  25. Raden says:

    Hi Aluang, thanks for your comment. How can you say that Malay are genetically less competitive? It sounds like very defenseless & hopeless because gen is something you can not change in nature. Believe me we can do something here.

    Do you know Daniel Sahuleka? He used to be one of our world-class King Pop Singer. I rated him 10 while Sanjaya Malakar (the voted out American Idols) for 3. What makes person like him were very successful? Anita Sarawak used to have regional calibre however her career might be much longer than Siti Nurhaliza. Siti once had herself on top of the world but because of the Malay custom & tradition, once married with her businessman husband, her name gradually disappearing now. Inul Daratista is very successful, her chinese husband is her show manager but the Muslim radicals & fundamentalist banned her shows all the time because it is not an Islamic show. According to Muslim, all singers must wear tudung & dancing in Arabic way, then who’s culture is that? Then you can only sell your dangdut wearing tudung DVD show to Arab because I don’t think I will buy it, it is horrible according to Simon Cowel. I don’t think the Arab market is attractive either but will they buy your DVD? Ups nobody will care about us in Arab. The real & present danger for Indonesia is losing identity for the sake of new colonialism from Middle East’s Wahabism way of life. I bet there are incombatibility between the modern global economy model & the Wahabism ortodox way of life which may cause anyone who practice it ideology becoming LazIer, more LETHARGIC & more UNCOMPETITIVE.

    I never blame on the race but to the ideology which bring their agenda attached. But why should we adopt a maybe used to be a ‘good ideology (dulu – jaman nabi Musa) in the wrong period of time? WHY?

    In Arab, those a few rich sheiks do not like Wahabism way of life – they like to marry blonde American sexy wives, maybe their Arab ordinary citizen as the majority practice it, but the countries can survive since their crude-oil deposits are physically abundant, therefore America care about them. But Indonesia unlike Middle-East, in the past 10 years we have no good news, our crude-oil deposits is in decreasing mode from time to time, and we are net importer of oils now. We can not afford to adopt ideology that is in the opposite side to the global economy model indeed. That is Islam fundamentalist way of life that is the source of lazyness, lethargic & too much worry about the practice of middle-easterner’s way of life. They have too much desert but we don’t have any in Indonesia so why bother with their culture & custom?

    We had given Freeport McMoran USA gold mining license since the past 30+ years, there were massive ecosystem destruction in Irian Jaya without anybody care about it. In contrast, when ibu Mari Pangestu issued the sand export ban, it means for only Singapore who have their interest for Riau’ sand import, it doesn’t apply to USA – yes, we are affraid to the USA but forgotten our nice Singapore neighbour in the event there were Aceh tsunami disaster. A tiny island in Riau is subject to ecosystem erosion while the cabinet forgotten there is much BIGGER one in Freeport Irian Jaya. That’s a unique Indonesia, our lovely country whom most of the time we missed the big picture & do not see what is the ‘real & present danger’ (this is not the movie title by Harrison Ford, the Holywood actor.)

  26. Aluang anak Bayang says:

    How can you say that Malay are genetically less competitive ?

    Read The Malay Dilemma first and observe for yourself if there is any truth in what Dr. Mahatir had written. In a mixed class (Malay, Chinese and Indian), Malay kids tend to opt out of school before junior high because education is too demanding. They would look for a paid job, married young, have childrens, grow old and then retire to their kampung. This is the life cycle of a typical Malay – a simple lifestyle. At this point, I would have to agree with Dr. Mahatir’s conviction that Malays need to be protected from the Indians and Chinese migrants. Otherwise the Malay race will become coolies in their own land.

    I have no comment on islamic issue as I am very opposed to any form of religion especially Abrahamic religion which is very intrusive. I believe the more religious a person is, the less resourceful he becomes.

  27. Raden says:

    Aluang, this coming Tue-Wed I will visit Kuala Lumpur, do you think I can buy The Malay Dilemma openly in KLIA airport or in the Twin Tower KL Suria bookshop? I knew there is a big Japanese bookstore the Kinokuniya at Level 3 there. I take your recommendation. Thank-you.

  28. Aluang anak Bayang says:

    It was first published in the 60s when Dr. Mahatir was a nobody. I know you can buy it off the internet, but I am not sure if the book is still banned in Malaysia, probably not because Dr. Mahatir came to power shortly after that. Have a thought on this,

    You wanted 2 weeks off for your holiday. If your boss is:
    a Westerner: “Enjoy yourself. See you in 2 weeks”.
    a Japanese: “huh Oliday, last time I have oliday was 10 years ago”.
    a Chinese: “2 weeks! there are so many works to be done. I give you 1 week”.
    an Indian: He will start rummaging around and before he open his mouth, you said, “sorry, forget about the holiday”, and went back to your office desk.
    a Malay: “yahooo, thanks for reminding me. I need a holiday too”.

    The Malay race do not have strong work ethic.

  29. Raden says:

    Dear Aluang, you knew a lot about Malaysia & Brunei and have wide network with the Malay bumiputera in Peninsula, I suspect you work in the Oil & Gas related business, am I right?

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