Thursday, May 22, 2003

Black May 1998: 5th Commemoration (13 of 24)

Vice president reassures Indonesian Chinese on riots anniversary
Agence France Presse (May 16, 2003)

Jakarta - Vice President Hamzah Haz reassured Indonesia's ethnic Chinese on the anniversary of deadly anti-Chinese riots five years ago that they are fully part of the nation, it was reported Friday.

"You are Indonesian citizens of Chinese descent. Such similar perceptions of this should be built as you are part of the Indonesian nation," Haz said in a Thursday evening prayer ceremony.

The ceremony was organised by the Chinese Reforms Party of Indonesia, the state Antara news agency said.

It commemorated the Jakarta riots of May 13-15, 1998 in which ethnic Chinese and their businesses in the Glodok district were a leading target. Thousands fled the country or transferred funds overseas following the violence.

Haz described the riots as a national tragedy. He urged ethnic Chinese Indonesians to repatriate funds to assist national economic recovery.

Indonesia's official human rights commission said last week the riots were systematically planned.

It said it wanted to question senior military officers who were in charge of security in the capital at the time.

The riots, which broke out just before long-time dictator Suharto resigned, killed at least 1,100 people and destroyed 1,400 buildings, a previous state fact-finding team concluded.

Many victims were trapped inside burning buildings.

Demonstrations of Chinese culture were banned during Suharto's rule.

The culture has reasserted itself since then and Lunar New Year has been declared a public holiday. But some ethnic Chinese, who account for about three percent of Indonesia's 212 million people, still complain of discrimination.

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