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Unformatted text preview: A common destiny Print <#> Challenges remain for Chinese Indonesians 10 years after reformasi Jemma Purdey ismail07.jpg *A social gap? Beggars gather outside the Bon Tek Bio Temple, Tangerang, West Java, Chinese New Year 2008* /Henri Ismail/ The situation of Indonesia?s ethnic Chinese minority is inextricably tied to the fate of their fellow Indonesians. Ten years after the fall of Suharto?s New Order government, improvements in their legal and social status mean Chinese Indonesians are free to express their ethnic identity in the spirit of the founding principle of Indonesian nationalism, Unity in Diversity. But although much has been achieved in this decade, challenges still remain. Two lingering concerns for ethnic Chinese are shared by many Indonesians ten years on: access to justice for victims of the New Order and the protection of the rights of religious and ethnic minorities. Unless there is a shift in current political and social trends in Indonesia indications are that these will remain sensitive and potentially unresolved issues for some time to come, keeping many ethnic Chinese, members of other minority groups and victims of the New Order on the nation?s margins. Not so distant trauma Before the fall of the New Order ushered in a period of reform, anti-Chinese sentiment and violence reached its highest levels in over thirty years. The 1997 Asian financial crisis triggered the collapse of Indonesia?s banking system and national currency, causing skyrocketing inflation and food prices. Amidst the chaos local consumers and national leaders alike looked for explanations and began pointing fingers. Rather than looking to inefficient and corrupt government agencies, regulatory bodies or global markets, local traders and shop-owners were blamed. The public and some local and national leaders turned against ethnic Chinese occupying these critical positions in the economy. Food riots broke out spontaneously across the archipelago, but particularly on Java, targeting Chinese-owned businesses and suppliers. Widespread mob violence including burning, looting and attacks took place in Jakarta, Solo, Medan and Surabaya in mid-May 1998, following weeks of student demonstrations and clashes with security forces on campuses. In these cities the violence was more systematic and involved methods not seen in the earlier ?riots?. Shopping malls were set alight and up to one thousand people were killed. Skilled ?mobs? attacked Chinese-owned stores and other property. However, it was the sexual assaults, including rapes, of one hundred and fifty women, most of them ethnic Chinese, which most shocked many Indonesians and the international community. In May 2008 the Indonesian Commission for Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) released a report to mark the tenth anniversary of the violence. It contains a detailed investigation of the situation of the victims ten years on and the responses of government and judicial agencies to calls for truth and justice. The authors of the report argue that national leaders largely ig...
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