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Investigating the Grey Areas of the Chinese Communities in Southeast Asia

Arnaud Leveau

The Papers

Grey Side of Chinese Community in Indonesia

Frans Hendra Winarta

Texte intégral

  • 5 Based on United Nations statistic the numbers of ethnic Chinese in Indonesia in year 1999 is about (...)

1Ethnic Chinese is considered one of so many minorities in Indonesia. The majority of Indonesians are Javanese and Sundanese making up to 50% of the total population of Indonesia which is about 220 million people. On the other hand, the fact shows the important role of the Chinese – Indonesians particularly in the economy and trade sector. Although the ethnic Chinese in Indonesia is the largest community among the other countries in South East Asia5 but they are still facing ongoing problem of discrimination and unclear identity. This is different from The Thai and Philippines experience in which the ethnic Chinese in those countries are well accepted and considered equal to the majority indigenous people. Despite their long presence in the country, some have been in Indonesia for generations and in a matter of hundred of years, yet they are still considered as foreigners. Recently, vice president Jusuf Kalla made a racial and discriminative remark on his affirmative action program to lift up the standard of living of indigenous people through loans provided for small and middle class indigenous businessmen. In an interview conducted by Sinar Harapan daily newspaper date 12 October 2004 he stated: “Put up with the discrimination or get burned out of your homes.”

  • 6 Article in Kompas daily newspaper, “From Bone to the State Palace”, 20 October 2004, p. 43.

2The affirmative action he proposed by lowering the interest rates on loans to 95% (by his own admission) of indigenous Indonesians businessmen is laudable, but by making such discriminative remarks is at the same time regrettable. It tarnishes the multitudinous of the program itself. Furthermore Kalla stated that its up to the ethnic Chinese whether they accept to be discrimininated or they choose to be looted of their properties like in the May riot 1998. It’s better to be discriminated rather than facing a situation where the pushcart small businessmen were chased and dragged out from their business place, usually on the trotoir, and every time it happened they always thought how and when to retaliate and who will be picked up as the victim of revenge which usually targeting Chinese properties and shops. It is shocking to learn the comment of a leader of Indonesia just one day prior to the inauguration day 20 October 2004. Although it is not a surprise that Kalla made such remarks because during the election campaign he reiterated time and again his stance to help the small and middle class businessmen at the expense of ethnic Chinese but such open and blunt statement made by the than vice president of Indonesia one day prior to his term of office is really a disgrace. And such remarks could ignite violence. One cannot elevate the standard of living of a group of people by sacrificing the other group in a society. The state must be protecting all citizens and groups of people equally without discrimination. Beside that, the May riot was instigated by the hawkish army faction who wants to maintain status quo owing to the fact that Soeharto is no longer popular in the country. This was reported by an independent fact finding (investigative) team appointed by the National Human Rights Commission in collaboration with a number of NGO’s. The team comprise of credible and trustworthy public figures, activists, lawyers, human rightists, ex bureaucrats and a number of the National Human Rights Commission members. The report of the team indicates that 1,200 urban poor became the victim of rioting and 80 women mostly ethnic Chinese were gang-raped at the time. For three days Jakarta were looted, shops and vehicles destroyed and burned down without any efforts to cope with by the security forces. The ordeal occurred by both commission and omission. Just a few hours before Soeharto landed in Jakarta from a Non Bloc meeting in Egypt, Jakarta was in control. Prior to the riot 15-17 May 2004, students of the University Of Trisakti demonstrated on the street and in their campus to demand Soeharto to step down. Three students of Trisakti University were shot dead and up to now the instigators and person behind the riot has not been found and brought to justice. Only a few law rank police officers were tried and sentenced to several years imprisonment. The notion that the May riot is a spontaneous act of the poor who envied the ethnic Chinese is again bogus and baseless. Kalla himself has prospered because his late father enjoyed the privilege of the so called PP 10 Year 1959 (Government Regulation No. 10 Year 1959 whereas the ethnic Chinese at that time was prevented from doing business in the ruler areas under the pretext that on the absence of the ethnic Chinese traders the indigenous people will survive in business. Kalla is one of a view indigenous Indonesians who took the advantage to explore his family business in South Sulawesi and became one of the richest indigenous Indonesians with a total wealth of no less than Rp. 122 billion.6 This privilege were changed during Soeharto era whereby Soeharto preferred his Indonesian-Chinese old friends and cronies to develop their business for the benefit of Soeharto and his family.

3If we look back into the history of Indonesian discrimination against the ethnic Chinese was started during the Dutch colonial era, in which the colonial government applied a divide and rule principle (devide et impera) by segregating the population of Netherlands Indies into three categories (i) Europeans; (ii) Foreign Easterners such as ethnic Chinese, Indians and Arab and (iii) Indigenous people as provisioned in article 163 IS (Indische Staatsregeling Wet van 2 September 1854, Ned.S. 1854-2, S. 1855-2 jo. 1) or state regulation. The three groups were living segregately in a different atmosphere and standard of living, the indigenous people were the one lacking behind, economically as well as socially so to speak. By segregating into three groups in the community the Dutch ruler was able to maintain their presence for more than three hundred years in Indonesia. The remnants of segregation are deep rooted in the Indonesian society up to now reflected in the law of civil registration in which the ethnic Chinese is considered foreign easterners. The government of Soekarno made a historical mistake, by signing a treaty with PRC (People’s Republic of China) on the dual citizenship of Indonesian-Chinese. The Indonesian-Chinese are automatically Indonesian citizen when Soekarno-Hatta declared the independence of Indonesia on 17 August 1945, but base on the ius sanguinus principle adopted by PRC overseas Chinese are citizens of PRC. This does not apply to Thai-Chinese, Malaysian-Chinese or Filipino-Chinese. By constitution the Indonesian-Chinese are automatically become citizens of the Republic of Indonesia. There is no reason why Indonesia signed a bilateral treaty with PRC to overcome the dual citizenship of Indonesian-Chinese. But this is a mistake which caused many problems in the future likewise the necessity for Indonesian-Chinese to obtain SBKRI (certificate of citizenship) for naturalization of foreign subject to become Indonesian citizen. Every single year the Indonesian-Chinese children and gangsters have to submit the SBKRI to their school and universities to proof they were Indonesian citizens. Also when they want to obtain IDs, driving license, passport, loan from the bank, land certificate and so forth they have to proof that they are Indonesian citizens. To obtain SBKRI one must spent around Rp. 5.000.000,-or around US $ 500.-. Although recently repealed by the government of Megawati Soekarnoputri but it is still required by schools, universities, banks, the immigration office, land office etc. It becomes a source of black mail for public servants and difficult to stop.

  • 7 The data is compiled from a report published by the Indonesian trade attaché in Beijing, China, in (...)

4The diplomatic relation between PRC and Indonesia was at the lowest level after the abortive communist coup d’état in 1965. PRC was accused behind the coup d’état under the pretext that a batch of arms was stranded in Hongkong ready for dispatch to Indonesia connected with the abortive coup d’état. The government of Soeharto then cut the diplomatic relation with PRC. But in 1991 the diplomatic relation was resumed following the end of the cold war. The peak of the warm relation between PRC-Indonesia was during the term of office of president Megawati Soekarnoputri who extended the close relation of PRC-Indonesia in the 1960s under President Soekarno spearheading the alliance of non-bloc countries. Indonesia has currently a surplus trade around US $ 100.00 million with PRC as a result of the reestablishment of diplomatic relation.7

  • 8 In its policy implementation, the New Order regime was not always consistent. It is true that the e (...)

5When Soekarno stepped down from office after the abortive Communist coup d’état in 1965 replaced by the New Order regime under the leadership of Soeharto the improvement initiated by the administration of Soekarno against the ethnic Chinese was crushed by the New Order regime. Albeit legally recognized as Indonesian citizens after the independence of Indonesia 17 August 1945, whereas all individuals ex the Netherlands-Indies subject were considered citizens of the Republic of Indonesia, the New Order regime has discriminated the ethnic Chinese through laws, government regulations, presidential decrees, ministerial regulations, and cabinet circulars. There are about 64 regulations and laws, which are considered discriminative against Chinese culture, names, language, worshiping, characters, schools, publishing, media and so forth.8 This policy is carried out under the assumption that the ethnic Chinese in Indonesia and in Southeast Asia are prone to be communist or sympathize the communist. This is of course a false statement as an excuse to corner the minority Chinese resulted into huge political pressures to the Indonesian-Chinese Community and instigates the introduction of discriminative laws and regulations after the abortive coup d’état in 1965. There are around 64 laws and regulations discriminating the ethnic Chinese although some have been repealed by president Habibie, president Abdurrahman Wahid and president Megawati Soekarnoputri. Most of them changed their Chinese names and did not acknowledge as Chinese origin for many reasons. President Megawati Soekarnoputri indicated that there are 18 million Indonesian-Chinese in Indonesia during the campaign in the last election but did not indicate where she got the figure from. The UN research in 1999 indicated that there are 6,278,000 ethnic Chinese in Indonesia is probably not accurate because of the political pressures during the New Order era they do not admit of being ethnic Chinese siphoning from the pressures, especially those who converted to Islam or having mixed marriage with indigenous people (spouses). Laws and regulations, which are discriminating the ethnic Chinese, are among others:

  1. Government Regulation No. 10/Year 1959 on foreign small businessmen and retailers in region of level I and level III and prefectures, which prevent the ethnic Chinese to do business in the regions.

  2. Cabinet Presidium Decree No. 127/U/Kep/12/1966 on regulation to change name of Indonesian citizens with Chinese names.

  3. Decree of The People’s Consultative Assembly No. XXVII/MPRS/1966 on religion, education and culture, which prohibits Chinese Tao Worshiping in public, Chinese education and characters.

  4. Cabinet Presidium Instruction No. 49/U/8/1967 on the utilization of Chinese language in Mass Media.

  5. Regulation from the Minister of Justice No. JB 3/4/12 year 1978 on certificate of citizenship (SBKRI), applied to ethnic Chinese.

6The above laws and regulations can be considered as a state sponsored discrimination carried out against its own citizens. The implication of such policy is tremendous as if anything with regard to Chinese culture, religion, worshipping, and customs is bad and should be prohibited. This is why the integration of the ethnic Chinese is considerably slow compared with other Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines. Almost every decade since Indonesia declared its independence in 1945 the ethnic Chinese become the target of rioting, looting, anger and hatred of the other ethnic groups.

  • 9 During the liberal democracy until 1965, Indonesia had 7 (seven) ministers from Chinese origin in t (...)
  • 10 According to Charles A. Coppel in his book entitled “Indonesian Chinese in crisis” describes that t (...)

7The Indonesian-Chinese were shunned from politics unlike during Soekarno administration they were allowed to join political parties and some were active as members of parliament and some become ministers in the cabinet.9 The creation of a couple hundreds of Indonesian – Chinese conglomerates by Soeharto resulted into anti Chinese sentiment among indigenous Indonesians. They were considered as the cause of poverty.10

  • 11 As quoted from Ernest Renan: “Nation state is a group of people who want to live together because t (...)

8The segregation policy by the New Order regime is against the conception of a modern nation introduced and adopted by the founding fathers of the Republic of Indonesia.11

  • 12 Leo Suryadinata, op cit., page 59.
  • 13 Adam Schwarz, A nation in Waiting: Indonesia’s Search For Stability, (Australia: Allen & Unwin, 199 (...)

9It is true that during the New Order regime the Chinese-Indonesians enjoyed the privilege to become an economic power. This is supported by the policy of Soeharto to encourage for economic growth and dragged the Indonesian-Chinese only to trade and economy.12 Besides the Indonesian-Chinese, similar to their equal in Southeast Asia, are gifted businessmen and therefore play an important role in the business sector, they also considered education as paramount to create high quality human resources. Not surprisingly, they were well educated compared to other groups in the community.13 Consequently although the ethnic Chinese are advance in business and economy they are not involved in the government or military.

  • 14 It is true that the conglomerates are rich and wealthy and they are around twothree hundred people. (...)

10On the pretext of economic growth and prosperity, the New Order regime opened the door for the private sector, especially the Chinese-Indonesian businessmen, to develop their enterprises. This has resulted into corruption, collusion and nepotism (namely KKN) in the bureaucracy from the highest-level officers to the lowest rank and file. For thirty two years of term of office Soeharto created hundreds of conglomerates most of them ethnic Chinese. This becomes a myth that 90% of the Indonesian economy is dominated by the Chinese-Indonesians as a result of unscrupulous business practices or KKN.14 Of course this is bogus as state enterprises and multinational companies are controlling oil, gas, consumer products, plantation, finance, banking, mining, communication, and public transportation businesses.

  • 15 Cukong (old spelling tjukong) is a Chinese Hokkien dialect for “master”. However, in Indonesia, the (...)
  • 16 The collaboration between Chinese businessmen and indigenous power holders has created resentment a (...)

11During this era Cukongism15 were introduced among the bureaucrats and businessmen. The Chinese-Indonesians are the active partners in business. They were favored by the power holders and also by the foreign partners due to their experience and superiority in business.16 It is no secret that Soeharto beside recruiting technocrats also embraced his ethnic Chinese friends, and business partners such as Lim Sioe Liong alias Sudono Salim, The Kim Seng alias Mohamad “Bob” Hasan, Yantje Liem and others to obtain wealth for his personal gain by providing all kinds of facilities and monopoly in various sector of business such as cloves, flour, cement, logging and so forth. Ironically Soeharto, on the pretext of a racist attitude relocate gambling centers, bars, nightclubs and massage parlors in China town or areas where most Indonesian-Chinese businessmen operate. Outside those areas permits of such business were closed.

12Those conglomerates, dubbed as cronies of Soeharto, were competing one to another to expand their businesses. They were guilty of deceiving the people through mark-up of their assets, shares, and property of their companies in order to obtain loans from domestic and international banks or financial institutions. The land appropriated for office buildings, industrial estates, shopping malls, luxurious real estates and golf courses were carried out through military might against the poor people and peasants. Again this is done through collusion with the bureaucracy to smoothen their business. Such practice creates an image that corruption and bribery is the culture of ethnic Chinese.

  • 17 Yoshihara Kunio elaborated in his book “The Rise Of Ersatz Capitalism In South-East Asia”. This phe (...)

13The collaboration of the conglomerates and politicians to gain political support and favorable economic policy made the situation worst. Some politicians paved the way for the conglomerates to expand their businesses and strengthen their position, whilst the profit gained was utilized to stretch their political influence. Such relation is popularly identified as client-patronage relation (politico-business).17 This kind of transaction becomes obvious during election days by donating funds to certain political parties hoping they will be able to obtain concessions and privileges in business.

  • 18 Benny G. Setiono, Chinese in the Political Stream, (Jakarta: Ekasa, 2002), pages 992-994.

14The creation of conglomerates as cronies by Soeharto and gambling places run by the Indonesian-Chinese gave a bad impression as if all ethnic Chinese are greedy, immoral and gain wealth from criminal acts and damaging for Indonesia.18

  • 19 The total expected loss was at least 2.5 trillion Rupiah or equivalent to US $ 238 million. Thirtee (...)
  • 20 Benny G. Setiono, op. cit., page 1062-1063.

15A few years prior to the monetary crisis many suggested dissatisfaction against the economic policy introduced by Soeharto which is designed for the benefit of the family of Soeharto and his cronies. This is used by provocateurs to instigate hatred against ethnic Chinese. The tip of the iceberg was the broke-out of the May riot 13-15 May 1998 which caused huge damage and suffering to the Indonesian people19, particularly against ethnic Chinese. This is a shock to most Indonesian-Chinese that they always become the target of any violence due to the frustration among the indigenous people, which cautioned them that they have been sidelined, their rights as citizens being reduced, and a constant scapegoat as well as target of extortion by the power holders of the New Order regime. The riot proves the truce that the ethnic Chinese has been prepared to be the scapegoat of violence and bumper of the New Order regime.20

16The 21st May marked the end of the New Order Era when Soeharto stepped down from office due to heavy pressures by the students and his own cabinet ministers. Indonesia then entered a democratic reformation era. In this era the above system must be eliminated. The ethnic Chinese gained a better place and acknowledgement in the Republic of Indonesia. We can see among others Kwik Kian Gie was appointed as Coordinating Minister of Economy and Industry during the term of office of President Abdurrahman Wahid and later on as Chairman of The National Development Board during President Megawati Soekarnoputri.

  • 21 Article 26 Paragraph (1) of the 1945 Constitution states that: “the Indonesian citizens are the nat (...)

17On top of that the right to assemble and participate in politics are widely open for the ethnic Chinese marked by the founding of political parties and NGOs, such as Chinese Reformation Party (Parti), Integrated Indonesia Party and Bhinneka Tunggal Ika Indonesia Party (PBI), National Solidarity (SNB), Indonesian Anti Discrimination Movement (GANDI), Indonesian-Chinese Social and Cultural Institute (PSSTI) and Indonesian-Chinese Association (INTI). The new government has also repealed discriminative policies against ethnic Chinese, among others through Presidential Decree No. 56 Year 1996 on certificate of citizenship (SBKRI), Presidential Instruction No. 26 Year 1998 on the elimination of the term indigenous and non indigenous people, Presidential Instruction No. 4 Year 1999 on the education and usage of the Chinese language, Presidential Decree No. 6 Year 2000 on the revocation of Presidential Instruction No. 14 Year 1967 on Chinese religion, believe and customs and Presidential Decree No. 19 Year 2002 on the decision to determine Lunar New Year as a national holiday. However the reform government did not differ much from the New Order government. Corruption was rampant. Human Rights are not respected. A number of discriminative regulations were maintained. Articles 26 of the 1945 Constitution were amended but maintain the term “indigenous Indonesian”.21

18Looking into those facts it is expected that the new government under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono respects democracy and human rights. All forms of discrimination should be eliminated whether based on religion, race, ethnicity, color, socio-economy, culture, gender or otherwise. Every group in the community has the right to prosper and live decently according to their merits. A system of meritocracy should be introduced to prevent bad past experience. Segregation policy during the New Order era has caused social envy, upheavals, and violence.

19The new policy must be balanced by providing the ethnic Chinese the opportunity to join the military, bureaucracy, police force, the judiciary, parliament, politics, and so forth. The legal system must be unified and do not segregate the society on basis of racial or ethnic background. In short pluralism must be acknowledged as a fact of life rather than an object of politics to maintain power.

20On the other hand, the ethnic Chinese must be willing to enter other professions and not confined in the business and trade sector only. They must enter the bureaucracy, military, police force, the judiciary, become prosecutors, lawyers, politicians, member of parliament and so forth. This is to neutralize the paradigm that they are economic animals, greedy, selfish, self-oriented, and unpatriotic.

21It is high time for the new government under president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to declare that the Indonesian-Chinese is an integral part of the nation and practice unity in diversity (Bhinneka Tunggal Ika) in a state based on law (rechtsstaat). As such all forms of discrimination should be shunned. The state must guarantee equality before the law and equal opportunity for all citizens without exception.

“I would like to clarify that the creation of 200 – 300 conglomerates mostly ethnic Chinese – Indonesians by President Soeharto during the rule of the New Order from 1966 up to 1998 have resulted into social envy and disparity. They are very close to the power holder and enjoy privileges during Soeharto terms of office. Their main business are mostly in the areas of cooking oil, instant noodle, wheat, car manufacturing, banking, financing, industry, plantation, chemical, soft drinks, consumer products and so forth. One of the new emerging business tycoon is Tommy Winata with his Artha Graha Group of companies running entertainment businesses such as karaoke, massage parlour, pubs, restaurants, banking, shopping mall, real estate and so forth. He is very close to the military and run the military business with a turn over of 5 billion US dollar per annum. Although the new government of Indonesia under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono planned to take over the military business but this has not materialize due to the resistance from the army generals (58 active generals). It was rumored that Tommy has relation with Triad but there is no evidence on such pretext. The Chinese – Indonesians are accused as perverters of the law due to their involvement in illegal gambling, karaoke, massage parlour, prostitution etc in the dense Chinese areas (China Town). This is because the permits for such business are issued in those areas by the regional governments in many provinces particularly in urban areas. Again this is considered by most indigenous Indonesians, who are Moslems, as the symbol of the grey side of the Chinese Community.

In the past during the colonial time the Chinese were known as loan sharks and collaborators of the Dutch colonial. After independence things are not better because Soeharto abuse them as the financial supporters (donators) of the authoritarian regime. And because of their role in the economy they were blamed as the source of economic and social disparity. Unlike the small group of Chinese conglomerates the majority ethnic Chinese – Indonesians have contributed a great deal to the development of the country. They are professional medical doctors, lawyers, accountants, journalists, managers, directors, businessman and bankers. In fact the Indonesian language as we know today was established by the Chinese – Indonesians journalists during colonial time. They speak the language at home unlike the indigenous people who speak their own dialect at home. But this was not acknowledge in the history of Indonesia. The role of the Chinese – Indonesians as tax collectors is another grey side of the Chinese Community. But most of all the discrimination in regulations and laws is the most critical point of discrimination by the state against its own citizens. This is another gross violation of human rights committed by the state against individuals and should be corrected by the new government of Indonesia. “Reformasi” is the key word to improve the situation.”

22The story about gambling in Jakarta was organized by governor Ali Sadikin during the 70s and 80s and is no longer exist. The money was used for building infra structure such as roads, bus stations, schools, traditional market, youth center, construction, sanitary, health, hospital, medication and so forth. It was legally organized at that time but now is illegal by operated undercover in yachts or vessels from Jakarta to Singapore v.v.


5 Based on United Nations statistic the numbers of ethnic Chinese in Indonesia in year 1999 is about 6,278,000. See: Leo Suryadinata, Nation ethnic Chinese: Indonesia Case, (Jakarta: Book LP3S Indonesia, 2002), page 11.

6 Article in Kompas daily newspaper, “From Bone to the State Palace”, 20 October 2004, p. 43.

7 The data is compiled from a report published by the Indonesian trade attaché in Beijing, China, in November 2004. It is reported that export from Indonesia in January-September 2004 reached US $ 5,34 billion (an increase of 26.78%) compared to 2003, whilst import to Indonesia reached US $ 4,4 billion (an increase of 37.77%). As such Indonesia has a surplus of US $ 937.69 million against PRC with a total trade volume between the two countries of US $ 9.74 billion, Sinar Harapan daily newspaper, “Balance of Trade of Indonesia reached a surplus of US $ 937.69 Against PRC”. 19 November 2004, p. 3.

8 In its policy implementation, the New Order regime was not always consistent. It is true that the educational system and the regulation to change Chinese names is for the purpose of integration however discrimination was applied. Even the identity card of the ethnic Chinese has special code. The economic group classification was based on ethnicity. See: Leo Suryadinata, ibid, page 62.

9 During the liberal democracy until 1965, Indonesia had 7 (seven) ministers from Chinese origin in the cabinets. During revolution, Mr. Tan Po Goan and Siauw Giok Tjhan as State Minister in children affairs. In the cabinet of Ali Arifin, Dr. Ong Eng Die as Finance Minister and Dr. Lie Kiat Teng alias Mohamad Ali as Health Minister. In the last cabinet under Soekarno, there were 3 (three) ministers of ethnic Chinese which is Mr. Oei Tjoe Tat. Tan Kiem Liong alias Mohamad Hasan as Minister of Income, finance and supervision also Ir. David Cheng as Minister of Construction. See: Dana K. Anwari S.b., Endangered Chinese Lobby in Indonesia? The emerging of the Indigenous, Including ethnics Chinese (PT. Orayta), page 86.

10 According to Charles A. Coppel in his book entitled “Indonesian Chinese in crisis” describes that the Indonesian ethnic Tionghoa (Chinese) are always in dilemma as to what to do in politics. If they are deeply involved in a political party that is opposed to the government, then they are labeled as subversives. However if they support the government in power, society will regard them as opportunists seeking only profit support the government therefrom. See: Bambang Setiawan, “Cloud over Chinese New Year”, Kompas 12 February 2002.

11 As quoted from Ernest Renan: “Nation state is a group of people who want to live together because they experienced the same situations and conditions, currently and in the future have the same faith, therefore they decided to live in unity in the future.

12 Leo Suryadinata, op cit., page 59.

13 Adam Schwarz, A nation in Waiting: Indonesia’s Search For Stability, (Australia: Allen & Unwin, 1999), page 106.

14 It is true that the conglomerates are rich and wealthy and they are around twothree hundred people. But the population of the Indonesian-Chinese in Indonesia is between 6-8 million. Because of that the indigenous Indonesian perceived that all Indonesian-Chinese are rich because most of the conglomerates are Chinese. Beside that there is a myth established that the Indonesian-Chinese dominate the Indonesian economy. Dr B.J. Habibie on March 1998 when he was vice president was interviewed by Nihon Keizai Shimbun stated that 3% of ethnic Chinese in Indonesia dominate 90% of the Indonesian economy. But in fact state enterprises and multinationals are predominantly control the economy of Indonesia.

15 Cukong (old spelling tjukong) is a Chinese Hokkien dialect for “master”. However, in Indonesia, the term is used to refer to a Chinese businessman who collaborates with a member of the Indonesian power elite, usually a military man. Cukong provides skills in running the business and sometimes capital while the Indonesian power elite and various facilities to the cukong. The rise of the cukong system is complex. It is a product of historical and structural development in Indonesia as well as a conscious of the Indonesian political elite in managing Indonesia society. During the colonial era, there was an absence of a strong indigenous middle class and the ethnic Chinese, especially those in Java, served as the middlemen between the Dutch and the indigenous population. The role of the Chinese as members of the entrepreneurial class continued even after independence. As a middle class ethnic Chinese succeeded in a accumulating wealth and experience in the modern economic sector. See: Leo Suryadinata. The Culture of the Chinese Minority in Indonesia, (Singapore: Times Books International, 1997), page 33.

16 The collaboration between Chinese businessmen and indigenous power holders has created resentment among some pribumi Indonesians, particularly among the less successful businessmen. This group supported by Islamic groups and the opponents of the Suharto administration, staged a well-known anti cukong campaign in 1971. See: Leo Suryadinata, ibid., page 34.

17 Yoshihara Kunio elaborated in his book “The Rise Of Ersatz Capitalism In South-East Asia”. This phenomenon has occurred in many countries in Southeast Asia, especially in Indonesia. The cronies enjoyed the protection and facilities from the government and in return, they pay tribute to them. This relationship is described as a form of politico-business collaboration in the national capitalis system. See: Luky Djani, cs., Module Observation of campaign Fund, (Jakarta: Indonesia Corruption Watch and Transparency International Indonesia), pages 8-10.

18 Benny G. Setiono, Chinese in the Political Stream, (Jakarta: Ekasa, 2002), pages 992-994.

19 The total expected loss was at least 2.5 trillion Rupiah or equivalent to US $ 238 million. Thirteen public markets, 2,479 shop-houses, 40 shopping malls, 1,604 shops, 45 service stations, 387 office buildings, 9 gas stations, 8 busses and other public transportation, 1,119 cars, 821 motorcycles, and 1,026 houses were destroyed, looted, and burned during the riot. See: Damar Harsanto, “May Riots Still Burns into Victim’s Minds” in the Jakarta Post, May 14, 2002.

20 Benny G. Setiono, op. cit., page 1062-1063.

21 Article 26 Paragraph (1) of the 1945 Constitution states that: “the Indonesian citizens are the native Indonesian people and people from other nations legislated by laws as Indonesian citizen”.


S.H., M.H. Member of National Law Commission and Advocate in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Frans Winarta is an eminent international lawyer. He is Founder of the Indonesian Anti Discrimination Movement (GANDI) and the Cofounder of International Chamber of Commerce of Indonesia. He is a Permanent Lecturer at the Law Faculty of the University of Pelita Harapan, Karawaci – Tangerang, since 1996 and Member of the Board the Human Rights Institute established by the Council of the International Bar Association. He describes the political influences of the Chinese communities in Indonesia and the recent improvement of this influence among the local business and political elite despites ancient segregation.

© Institut de recherche sur l’Asie du Sud-Est contemporaine, 2007

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