The ethnic Chinese in Indonesia has faced many decades of racism and sometimes pogroms from Indonesians envious and suspicious of the Chinese. What is lesser known is that the US and especially the CIA played a cunning, covert role in spreading the defamatory lies and colluded with the racist Islamic government of Indonesia inciting the racial violence and ethnic cleansing against them.
The ethnic Chinese population is roughly 2-4% of Indonesia’s total population but there are persistent rumors that they own >70% of the wealth. This perceived economic success (which may not even be accurate due to the systematic discrimination the Chinese have endured for centuries in the country stretching all the way to Dutch colonial rule to prevent them from attaining certain degrees of success) has caused distrust and envy among many Indonesians mirroring the antisemitism during the early part of the twentieth century in Europe.
Anti-Chinese race riots and government sanctioned targeted paramilitary massacres in Indonesia have occurred since the 60s. But one of the principle causes for these organized massacres (much of which seemed to have been backed by the Indonesian government) is CIA black propaganda. Black propaganda is defined as false information purporting to come from one side of a conflict when its actually from another source. Take the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This was purportedly from a council of powerful Jewish elders who plotted to take over the world when in fact it was written by anti-Semites trying to defame Jews.
The CIA during the 50s, 60s and 70s were notorious for their use of black propaganda around the world in their efforts to destabilize regimes and political parties they did not like often pitting one ethnic, religious or political group against another. One tactic was to use leaflets made to look like propaganda from one group which advocated atrocities and domination of another group when this was actually CIA forgeries used to create enmity between the groups. We know from the CIA’s own records released through the Freedom of Information Act that the CIA did this throughout the world creating ethnic, political conflict, strife and even wars.
The CIA’s central role in Indonesia during the 60s was to spread anti-communist propaganda. Moreover they tried to cast a shadow over the ethnic Chinese population in Indonesia in portraying them as all agents of Beijing with the intent of “colonizing” Indonesia or to turn it into a godless, anti-Islamic, communist satellite. CIA propaganda hinting that China was trying to colonize Indonesia and had conspired to overtake the society from within was spread with the help of the Indonesian government. The aim was to spread rumors about armed coups, government subversion, social and economic domination, subversive political control and foreign imperialism by ethnic Chinese people and the PRC. None of these rumors have ever been substantiated. But during large scale anti-communist massacres in the 60s, the ethnic Chinese population were one of the primary targets of Suharto’s brutal regime. These were not just anti-Communist massacres but anti-Chinese. The Suharto Indonesian dictatorship made what they termed the “Chinese problem” one of their main concerns and they considered their association with the CIA to be part of the “final solution” to that problem. Anti-Chinese genocide and ethnic cleansing of tens of thousands of Chinese people were the result in one of the most forgotten and least mourned genocides of the 20th century. As I have already noted elsewhere, it’s important to keep in mind that much of the propaganda directed against China is also directed at the Chinese people. Much of it is inherently racist.
Suharto also made speaking Chinese, Hanzi characters, and even Chinese names illegal. These no doubt are great examples of genuine incidents of cultural genocide.
More than 30 years later, the Suharto regime was still in power but before the end of its long rein of terror in 1998, his regime coordinated one last death spasm resulting in an anti-Chinese pogrom leaving at least 1500 dead ethnic Chinese and hundreds of rapes against Chinese women and girls. The Indonesian government has since launched an investigation into these crimes but there has been no prosecutions and many of the Indonesian politicians and military provocateurs who spurred on anti-Chinese racism by directing rioters to target Chinese people and their business (many signs read “Ganyang Cina!” or “Crush the Chinese!”) during that time and thus inciting the violence have rerun for office. That shouldn’t be surprising as the Indonesian government again, seems to have been culpable in spurring on anti-Chinese racism and coordinating attacks. These incidents provide another example of when international intervention is not only permissible but probably obligatory. Mainland China’s seeming indifference and inaction during those times angered many ethnic Chinese all over the world. Protests at the Indonesia embassy took place in Beijing. Chinese in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and many other places rallied and demanded the world take action and the government of Taiwan threatened sanctions. But mainland China remained as closed off as ever. The west also seemed muted and indifferent. When these incidents were reported, often the racial, genocidal, ethnic cleansing element was left out. Sometimes the victims were blamed for causing economic inequality in the country and the issue was framed into one of the poor masses turning against an elite ethnic group (despite the fact that most of the Chinese Indonesians victims were living in abject poverty along with other Indonesians).
As China gains its strength, realizes its place in the world it will hopefully do more than it has, perhaps even conduct military operations against countries that persecute their Chinese minority. Changes in its view of its place in the world seems to be taking place since 1998 spurred on by events such as those in Indonesia. If the west is truly interested in protecting human rights and stopping genocide and ethnic cleansing it would assist China’s efforts to stop them but history has shown that it has always played the role of perpetrator, aider and abetter of these crimes.
i remember the 1998 anti chinese progroms after the 1997 east asian financial crisis; hopefully some day all those connected with these rapes and murders will be brought to justice though somehow i doubt it. Realpolitik means that indonesia is a swing state in the burgenoning cold war between China and the US.
It’s startling, might i add, to see how the US media and government have conditioned the american people (and the people of its allies and clients) to an ‘upcoming war with China’.Some people and politicians already tacitly accept that war will happen sooner rather than later, if at all, as a prerequisite to ensuring western hegemony.
Mulberry Leaf says
Thank god you’re talking about the Chinese in Southeast Asia. Endlessly persecuted, and nobody gives a shit about them. Within China, the PRC government censored and repressed limited student demonstrations against the 1998 Indonesian pogrom of ethnic Chinese. Yet all sorts of mayhem were permitted when a US spy-plane crashed onto Hainan, or when Japan played administrative musical chairs with Diaoyu.
Why does China encourage a discourse where we cry over a rich tasered expat in an American Apple store, while turning our noses away from thousands of raped and murdered compatriots in Southeast Asian shitholes? According to Zheng Wang in Never Forget National Humiliation (2012), it creates for an easy historical arc: Westerners and Japanese have humiliated China in the past, so let’s struggle against them today. Indonesia? Well, that throws a wrench in the works.
How can Turks mobilize monthly demonstrations against “the Chinese genocide” of absurdly distant imagined kin, while Chinese on the mainland cannot look past their pocketbooks? The fradulent anti-Communist term “Cambodian Genocide” may indeed be a genocide when considering how many ethnic Chinese died at the hands of Khmer ethno-fascists in Communist garb. Nary a protest from the PRC then, nor when it surrendered British-seized borderland (“Kokang”) inhabited by ethnic Chinese to the notoriously ethnically-repressive Burmese junta in the 1960s. Contesting that land would have been both geopolitically smart and moral, in contrast to the ridiculous posturing against the world’s first and third largest economies over an uninhabited island outpost which naval and missile advances make obsolete.
I absolutely blame the current leadership for their hostility toward ethnic Chinese, and accept no explanation like “well, the Qing [usurpers] discouraged migration, so it is Chinese culture to neglect migrants”. Say what you want about Kuomintang corruption, but they were damn active in the diaspora, and gave the disenfranchised descendants of the dragon a sense of unity and hope. After Chinese nationalism withered away in Taiwan to die, Maoist Communism provided another means and purpose for those Han outposts in barbarian jungles to resist Pan-Islamist and Malay supremacist ideology.
A comment on this website piqued my curiosity about the Batang Kali massacre of 24 unarmed Chinese plantation workers by Scottish forces in colonial Malaya in 1948. For me, the most disgusting aspect of the story is how the Singaporean Straits Times reacted to the story: with glee! According to that paper-of-record in a “Chinese” city, these victims were “Communist bandits” before they were Chinese, or Malayans, or even fellow human beings. With some retrospect, we can connect this traitorous ideology to Li Guangyao’s attempt to annex Singapore to Malaysia, which would have surely spelt the ‘final solution’ to Chinese culture south of the Xisha Islands.
Li and his fellow Macaulayist cronies failed to raze their own city, ironically for the reason that the Malay chauvinist government would not tolerate the presence of even more infidel Chinese in their federation, even for the bargain of their land and economic expertise. Desinicization continues apace in that country, where children with Chinese faces grow up speaking English at home, and where the twin forces of stifling multiculturalist dogma and hostility toward PRC immigrants compress a majority’s heritage into a soy sauce jar: nice ornamentation if you can profit from it, but defanged of any implications of shared identity or solidarity.
Although China will be actually “re”gaining its strength in the world, there is little precedent in Chinese history for military-humanitarian expeditions against petty Sinophobic statelets. The leadership may be wary because those “model” Islamic countries are vassals of the United States. However, it only needs to look north to see how the Russian bear vanquished Georgia’s US-supported mafia-state: with the clever use of passports. As those revolting little kleptocracies are mounting warships on China’s islands in the South Sea, now is the time for China to reverse its policy against dual citizenship and show the world that genocidal attacks on the Chinese—anywhere in the world—are an attack on China itself.
melektaus / Mulberry Leaf,
I think if China adopt both of your view, the SEA Chinese might suffer more, unless China is ready to put aside their so call ‘peaceful rise’ and turn it to ‘peace or no peace, we rise’, and China containment plan is no more a delusion.
Btw, i am interested to find out more should a more democratic Indonesia as compare to the past Suharto regime would/could provide a better living for the minority ie Chinese. As of today, the progress is pretty positive.
Seeing these images has made me sick to my stomach. I recall friends back around 1998 fearing for their family and relative’s safety in Indonesia. Little did I know the CIA was involved back in the 60s in turning the Indonesians against their Chinese minority compatriots.
I recall there was protest by the Chinese community in France back in the summer of 2010 where people in Chinatowns in France were frequently targeted by violent criminals. When the Chinese Consulate pressed the French authorities, they responded by putting more police in the street.
That compared to the China that was simply brushed off by the U.S. during the Chinese Exclusion Act and other racist laws periods, at least there’s some progress.
Recall last year the gang responsible for murdering 13 Chinese in Myanmar was caught and sentenced.
Hopefully we get to see some day what the Chinese government actually tried to do in response to the Indonesian violence back around 1998.
u.s. and british intel did the same thing in malaysia 1969. the difference between what happened to the Chinese Indonesians, and what hapened in Myanmar is that the 13 Chinese killed were Chinese citizens, whereas the ones in Indonesia were probably Indonesian and haven’t been Chinese for several generations. The Chinese government do not consider those who have taken up other citizenship as Chinese anymore. Even if you were born in China, and emigrated, you are no longer Chinese (中国人）. So if you are several generations removed, then you would be considered even less Chinese. There’s a lot of confusion about this because the mainland Chinese government has a different stance from Hong Kong, Taiwan and overseas Chinese, many of whom consider you to be Chinese, even after you emigrate. You can tell by Taiwan’s policy of giving out passports to overseas Chinese. New China (新中国） were originally suspicious of overseas Chinese, because a lot of them tended to colaberate with foreigners to attack China. also historically, it was seen as a bad thing to emigrate out of China. things have changed since, but you can still see that China (mainland) strictly distinguishes between 华人 and 中国人.
This is a really heavy subject. The reality is, it is not just the Chinese minority that has been discriminated, many other minority groups rarely have their stories heard or reported. As Rhan has mentioned, the PRC eventually dropped the ideas of dual citizenship and citizenship to overseas Chinese because it would created a distrust with local government. In Indonesia, simply read up on treatment of “rebels” in Aceh and East Timor (which gained independence).
There is no evidence that foreign forces have a hand in the riot in Malaysia in 1969. Sukarno’s Indonesia was too close to the communist bloc and caused a lot of discomfort to the US and UK, hence when a coup happened in Indonesia, those foreign agencies help removed him. The major goal is actually to eliminate the Communist Party of Indonesia which comprised mostly non-Chinese. The anti-Chinese riot is simply a side effect. In Malaysia the government was already pro-west.
China and Indonesia established diplomatic relations on April 13, 1950, which was suspended on October 30, 1967 due to the occurrence of the September 30 event of 1965.
In Myanmar, Aung San was also assassinated by forces back by foreign intelligence service as he was also a socialist considered too close to the communist bloc. In both cases, the coup paved way for new government that is close to the west. It is all part of the Cold War rivalry, the most famous cases are probably the coup in Iran and Chile.
I want to add that after both coup in Myanmar and Indonesia, new ultra nationalist military dictatorship came into power. They started policy sidelining all minority in government, education, citizenship etc, which caused civil war to eventually erupt in both countries. The war still goes on in Myanmar and barely concluded with Aceh in Indonesia. The fact of the matter is both countries are actually multi-ethnics with Myanmar hosting over 100 ethnics groups and Indonesia over 300!
Quite some time ago, I did have the opportunity of browsing some horrible photos of the Indon atrocities especially the pix of men violating the private parts of totally naked women. Their bodies were also scrawled with messages. Readers might want to visit this site: http://www.reocities.com/Pentagon/Bunker/1234/YellowRibbon.html and see a few sample photos.
BTW, the lack of action from both Taiwan and PRC against the inhuman atrocities in Java and Sumatra (and elsewhere) contrast so very greatly with the action of the US in its invasion and subsequent mass slaughters of innocents in Iraq and Afghanistan as a result of the 9-11 attacks which did not involve a single Iraqi or Afghan citizen.
Peaceful rise does not mean complete pacifest rise. In fact, not standing up to tyranny does against peaceful rise because standing by and doing nothing encourages violence in the world and in this case against the Chinese.
I am not trying to trivialize the suffering of the ethnic Chinese in SE Asia. I also see many calls for the intervention of the PRC or ROC whenever there is violence in those regions. However, how does one justify the intervention? Should China intervene too when there is violence against the ethnic Malay in Thailand? What about Rohingya in Myanmar? Ethnic Indian in Malaysia?
My point is, since none of those Chinese are technically Chinese citizens there is little China can do short of a western style military intervention. So should China changed its non-interventionist policy and be a regional policeman? As someone who is born and bred in SE Asia, I have firsthand experience with the victims of the Indonesian riots of 1998. I just want to point out the reality on the ground.
The author of the following article express similar sentiment and even listed the contribution of SE Chinese diasporas.
I have also seen data of the number of immigrants into China. Indonesia and Philippines are the countries with the highest number, for obvious reason. Whenever conflicts flare on the China-Myanmar border, China also took in tens of thousands of refugees. So China is not completely inactive. The problem is formulating a cohesive strategy that will benefit all parties. I think we should discuss it in this direction rather than call for a Chinese exceptionalism.
lim siau long says
I do hope our family and the victim that killed to get revenge one day. When that day come, they are the one who will be scream. The dream of revenge had been passed by generations. Until today i was one of the richest family in SE Asia. That dream might be fullfield by my grandson with a nuclear weapon, a small one would be enough to bring indonesia into bottom of the ocean.