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Date: Wed, 28 Jan 1998 05:09:10 -0500
Sender: Southeast Asia Discussion List <SEASIA-L@msu.edu>
Subject: Fwd: IN: Not-so-happy New Year (SCMP)
X-URL: http://www.scmp.com/news/

Not-so-happy New Year for Chinese fearful they will be targets of violence

By Greg Torode,
in South China Morning Post
Internet Edition
27 January 1998

The Year of the Tiger has already lost its roar for Jakarta's troubled ethnic Chinese community.

Today they will stay indoors and keep off the near-silent streets of Chinatown to celebrate the coming of what many fear could be the toughest year of their lives. Security forces will be patrolling the streets ensuring a wholesale ban of any public celebration is enforced in restaurants, hotels and parks. Not even dragon dances, banned all through the year, are allowed.

In policies that have long since disappeared elsewhere in the region, the Government has prohibited virtually all Chinese cultural trappings, including Chinese-language signs.

Mounting fears of ethnic violence in the wake of the economic crash have sparked warnings of tighter-than-usual security over the New Year.

"I guess it doesn't really matter what the Government does, it is going to be a tough New Year anyway," said Guzmal Wangke, a 52-year-old furniture shop owner who, like many of Indonesia's six million Chinese, speaks mostly Indonesian and has adopted a local name.

"There is not much to celebrate. All the talk has made a lot of us very scared. Everyone says we will be the first to be hit. I just tell people to remember that we are Indonesian as well as Chinese."

Many of the wealthy elite who control much of Indonesia's commerce will be staying at home, a plunging rupiah making trips to Singapore much more costly.

A Chinese stockbroker said: "It is all doom and gloom. We can't even drive the spirits away with a few firecrackers. Some of us have been in Indonesia for just one or two generations and we still like to keep up our traditions. But at the moment you just have to put all these things out of your mind and get on with your work."

Resentment and suspicion is apparently widespread across Indonesia, fuelled in part by the vast wealth of a string of Chinese tycoons with close links to President Suharto. Other Chinese can date families back hundreds of years before the arrival of Dutch colonialists.

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