Added: August 1, 2015 – Last updated: August 1, 2015


Author: Jemma Elizabeth Purdey

Title: Anti-Chinese Violence in Indonesia, 1996-1999

Subtitle: -

Thesis: Ph.D. Thesis, University of Melbourne

Year: October 2002

Pages: vi + 277pp.

Language: English

Keywords: 20th Century | Indonesian History


Link: Minerva Access: Institutional Repository of the University of Melbourne (Free Access)


Abstract: »Anti-Chinese violence in Indonesia reached a climax in Jakarta and elsewhere in May 1998 against a background of dramatic social and political change. This study presents close analysis of selected incidents that occurred mainly in Java in the years prior to this and in its aftermath. It tests explanations of anti-Chinese violence based on economic resentment, religious difference or state-sponsorship. By highlighting ethnicity as the single constant, as well as the importance of locating agency and responsibility, and the sources of representations of events of mass violence, the study challenges existing understandings of “anti-Chinese” violence. The approach taken recognises that violence against ethnic Chinese Indonesians must be viewed within the context of Indonesian nationalism and alongside other violence in Indonesia. It cannot be separated from the national political, social and economic turmoil of that time. In addition, it emphasises the competing representations of “Chineseness” and anti-Chinese violence for what they reveal about the motives behind certain explanations of violence and the events themselves. Of central significance is the way in which anti-Chinese violence is represented and perceived in Indonesian society as normal, natural and everyday. This study stresses the importance of listening to the voices of victims of violence and seeks to recognise the moral concerns related to scholarly and “official” generalisations about violence and suffering in particular. Framed in this way this approach poses the fundamental question, “Is there anti-Chinese violence in Indonesia?”« (Source: Thesis)


  Abstract (p. i)
  Declaration (p. ii)
  Preface (p. v)
  Acknowledgements (p. vi)
  I. Introduction (p. 1)
    Violence in the Indonesian State and the Ethnic Chinese (p. 3)
      The 'Othering' of Ethnic Chinese in Indonesian Nationalism (p. 4)
      The Role of Ethnic Prejudice in the Modern Nation State (p. 6)
      Myths, The Middle Class, Pariahs and Preservation (p. 8)
      The Crucial Role of Difference: Placing The Blame (p. 9)
    Representations and Violence Against Ethnic Chinese (p. 10)
      Representing Chinese Indonesians (p. 10)
        Constructed Identities: Chinese Indonesians, Class and Chineseness (p. 12)
        In a 'Class' Of Their Own (p. 14)
      Scholarly Approaches to Anti-Chinese Violence in Indonesia (p. 14)
        Master Narrative (p. 15)
        Case Studies and Causal Explanations (p. 17)
      Theorising Violence: Agency and Responsibility (p. 19)
        Seeking An Explanation: Assessing The Limits (p. 20)
        Struggles Over Symbolic And Temporal Space (p. 21)
      New Trends: Truth-Seeking and The Victim (p. 22)
    Approaching the Study of Anti-Chinese Violence, 1996-1999 (p. 26)
      How Do You Write About Violence? (p. 26)
      Studying Anti-Chinese Violence, 1996-1999 (p. 28)
      Reformasi, Revenge, Retribution and Justice-Seeking: Understanding the Historical Specificity of Anti-Chinese Violence, 1996-1999 (p. 32)
  II. Pre-May 1998 (July 1996 - April 1998)
  Anti-Chinese Violence October 1996 - January 1997 (p. 36)
    Situbonodo, 10 October 1996: Religion, Race or Political Power Struggle? (p. 38)
      Saleh's Trial (p. 39)
      Sentencing Saleh: Violence in Situbondo (p. 40)
      Searching For The Culprits: Conspiracy Theories and Religion Ruled Out (p. 42)
      NU In A Spin (p. 44)
      Jockeying For Position In An Election Year (p. 46)
      Local Antipathies Exposed Through The National Discourse (p. 47)
      Local Relationships Of Power and Peace: Kiai and the Situbondo Violence (p. 48)
      Trials and Justice? The Role of the Military (p.50)
    Tasikmalaya, 26 December 1996 (p. 52)
    Violence in Rengasdengklok, 30 January 1997 (p. 54)
      Local Tensions And Struggles of Symbolic Space: Cik Gue, Building Permits And the 'Tugu Kemenangan Cina' (p. 56)
      Why Violence Now? (p. 58)
      An Act Of 'Normal' Anti-Chinese Violence (p. 59)
      Attempting To Tighten The Straps: National Reverberations (p. 60)
  Anti-Chinese Sentiment and Violence in Java in Early 1998 (p. 64)
    Ethnic Chinese and A 'Campaign' of 'Scapegoating', January-February 1998 (p. 66)
      Economic Frustration Boils Up: Cicadas, Bandung, 5 January 1998 (p. 68)
        Local Resolutions (p. 70)
      Act 1: Invoking Anti-Chinese Sentiment: The 'I Love the Rupiah' Campaign (p. 70)
        Price Rises: The Government's Failure To Refute Speculation (p. 71)
      Riots in East Java, 12-16 January 1998: Motorcycle Convoys, Farmers And Price Rises (p. 72)
      Act 2: Invoking Anti-Chinese Sentiment: Sofyan Wanandi And The Tanah Tinggi Bomb (Just What The Doctor Ordered) (p. 75)
        Sofyan 'On the Run' (p. 76)
        Why Sofyan Wanandi? (p. 77)
      Riots in East and Central Java, 26 January - 3 February: Frustrated Fishermen and A Lean Lebaran (p. 78)
      Act 3: Invoking Anti-Chinese Sentiment: Islamic Groups Spread The Word (p. 80)
        'Holy War' Declared: A Common Agenda (p. 83)
        ABRI: 'Radical Groups' And A Change In Leadership (p. 84)
        Religious Festivals Collide: Someone Has To Give (p. 86)
      Violence in Central and West Java, February 12-16, 1998: Holidays and Bus Strikes (p. 87)
        The Crucial Role Of Bus Drivers: Riots Recede (p. 90)
    Conclusion (p. 90)
  III. May 1998
  Studying May 1998 (p. 96)
    Documenting the May Violence: Sources (p. 97)
    Challenging A Dominant Narrative of the 'May Riots' (p. 101)
      Localising the Violence: Medan and Solo (p. 101)
      Thinking Other Histories (p. 103)
  The Beginning of the End: Five Days of Violence in Medan (p. 104)
    4-8 May 1998 (p. 105)
      Student Demonstrations, Police Harassment and Rising Public Anger (p. 106)
    Ethnic Chinese in Medan and Kriminalitas (p. 108)
      Kriminalitas as 'Normal' (p. 109)
      Medan, May 1998: Blurred Distinctions Between Pemerintah and Preman (p. 111)
      Meda As a Test Case? (p. 112)
      The Beginning Of A Trend? Sexual Violence in Medan (p. 113)
  Jakarta, 12-15 May (p. 114)
  The 'Other' May Riots: Anti-Chinese Violence in Solo, May 1998 (p. 116)
    Patterns of the Solo Violence: The Basic Facts (p. 117)
      Targets (p. 119)
      Actors (p. 120)
      Security (p. 120)
    Representations of the Violence in Solo (p. 121)
      How was the Violence Interpreted and Represented in Solo? (p. 121)
        Students, Government and Military and Local Elite (p. 122)
        Ethnic Chinese (p. 125)
      Why was the Violence Interpreted in This Way? (p. 125)
      Returning to 'Normality' (p. 127)
      The Rape Factor (p. 128)
  Representing and Remembering the Violence of May 1998 (p. 132)
    The TGPF Report: Finding the 'Facts' About the May 1998 Violence (p. 133)
      Naming the Victims: Stumbling over Numbers (p. 133)
      Naming the Perpetrators: State-Sponsored Violence (p. 135)
      The Politics of Naming the Perpetrators: A Path to Justice? (p. 137)
      Trying to Find the 'Missing Link' Between the Provocateurs and the Pemerintah (p. 138)
      Who's afraid of the missing link? (p. 139)
      Sejumlah tokoh, beberapa jenderal dan 14 Mei' (Some elite, a few generals and 14 May) (p. 141)
      Naming Prabowo: A Solution or a Diversionary Tactic? (p. 142)
      Final Concessions (p. 144)
      Implications Of Failing To Find The 'Missing Link' (p. 144)
      The Politics of Naming The Victims: Reflections on a Nation (p. 145)
  Conclusion: Anti-Chinese Violence After May? (p. 147)
  IV. Post-May 1998 (June 1998 - March 1999)
  The Aftermath of May 1998 (p. 150)
    The Forces of Change (p. 150)
      Overseas Chinese Solidarity (p. 150)
      Human Rights and A New Sense of Nationalism (p. 154)
    Living in Indonesia: Lingering Fears for Security (p. 157)
      Economic Stresses Continue (p. 158)
      Government Efforts To Bring Ethnic Chinese Back 'Home' (p. 160)
      Taking A 'Different Approach'? (p. 164)
      Adi Sasono: 'I am called the most dangerous man in Indonesia' (p. 165)
      Prevaling Prejudices (p. 167)
  The Violence Continues in Reformasi Indonesia (p. 167)
      Still Scapegoats? (p. 167)
      Kekerasan and Reformasi (p. 169)
    Cilacap, 28 August 1998 (p. 170)
      Toke, Trawlers and Tradition (p. 171)
      Jumat Kliwon and Harbour Gateways (p. 172)
      Race, Class and Justice (p. 173)
    Bagansiapi-api, 15 September 1998) (p. 174)
      'Fishy' Relations (p. 175)
      Api dalam sekam' (Where there is smoke...) (p. 177)
      Links To Cilacap?: 'Fish and Firebombs' Revisited (p. 177)
    Holis (p. 178)
      A Prelude: Ketapang, Ambon and Christian Versus Muslim: A New Reason to Fear (p. 178)
      7 March 1999 (p. 179)
      'Gereja Aneh', Permits and Urban Sprawl (p. 180)
      Anti-Chinese Sentiment, Local Riot Systems and An Absence of Surprise (p. 182)
    Conclusions (p. 183)
      Disturbing Trends (p. 183)
  V. Conclusion (p. 185)
    Discourse and The Normality of Violence in the Indonesian State (p. 185)
      Impunity and Representations of Anti-Chinese Violence (p. 187)
      The Politics of Anti-Chinese Violence (p. 188)
    The Persistence and Consistency of Anti-Chinese Violence (p. 189)
      'Moral Worlds', Agency and Intent (p. 191)
      Themes and Patterns for Anti-Chinese Violence (p. 194)
        Scapegoating As a Consquence: Economic Stresses (p. 194)
        Scapegoating As a Tool: Seeking Political Advantage, Premanism and State-Sponsorship (p. 195)
        Fears of Christianisation and the Growing Wealth Divide (p. 196)
        Context Seeking Justice and the Indonesian State in Transition (p. 197)
      The Absence of Violence (p. 198)
    Challenging Notions of Normal and Limited Violence (p. 200)
      Locating the Victim (p. 200)
      An Alternative 'Truth' (p. 202)
  VI. Appendices (p. 206)
    Appendix A. Cases of Violence Against Ethnic Chinese, 1996-1999 (p. 207)
    Appendix B. Tasikmalaya, 26 December 1996 (p. 209)
    Appendix C. March-October 1997: Elections, Declining Securiy, A Disappearing Economy (p. 217)
    Appendix D. Additional Economic Data (p. 219)
    Appendix E. Members of the Joint Fact-Finding Team (TGPF) About the 13-14 May 1998 Riots (p. 222)
    Appendix F. Case Study: Responses to the Rapes in Surabaya (p. 223)
    Appendix G. China and Taiwan Responses to the May 1998 Violence (p. 226)
    Appendix H. Presidential Instruction Republic of Indonesia Number 26 1998 (p. 227)
    Appendix I. Instruction of the President of the Republic of Indonesia Number 4 1999 (p. 229)
    Appendix J. Kebumen, 7 September 1998 (p. 231)
    Appendix K. Results of a poll conducted by the Jakarta Post in mid-February 1999, which surveyed 1,234 people in major cities (p. 237)
  VII. Glossary (p. 238)
  VIII. Bibliography (p. 243)
    Books, Chapters, Articles (p. 243)
    Newspaper, Magazine Articles (p. 258)
    Reports, Press Releases, Laws (p. 273)
    Interviews (p. 277)


Purdey, Jemma. Anti-Chinese Violence in Indonesia, 1996-1999. Singapore 2005.

Purdey, Jemma. Anti-Chinese Violence in Indonesia, 1996-1999. Honolulu 2006.

Wikipedia: History of Indonesia: Discrimination against Chinese Indonesians May 1998 riots of Indonesia