Chinese in Indonesia

Indonesia’s 2000 census reveals 2.4 million as being ethnic Chinese. That’s a mere 1.2 % of the country’s population. It is believed that this amount could be 2-3x that reported. The under-reporting is said to have happened due to the fear of revealing their Chinese ethnicity, due to the many instances of anti-Chinese activity.

Chinese merchants have interacted with the islands, now known as Indonesia, since the 15th century. Since then many Chinese have migrated to the Indonesian islands and have lived there ever since. At this time they are a minority group, yet financially powerful. Some native Indonesians view the Chinese Indonesians as possessing natural business instincts which they are incapable of competing with. This erroneous mind-set has created a great deal of resentment and hostility towards the Chinese population over the years.

Religion in Indonesia

Gedong II Temple. One of many ancient Buddhist temples to the northeast of the City of Jambi. Dates of the temples range from the 7th to the 14th centuries.

The Indonesian government restricts religious worship to one of six religions: Buddhism, Catholicism, Confucianism, Hinduism,  Islam, and Protestantism. A 2006 civil registration law does not allow Indonesians to identify themselves as a member of any other religion on their identity cards.

Ethnic Chinese Religious Affiliations in Indonesia (from 2000 census)

53.82% — Buddhist

35.49% — Christian

5.41% — Muslim

1.77% — Other

Vihara Sakyakirti in Jambi (Buddhist)

Chinese in Jambi

China has documentation of a visit from the Jambi Kingdom to China during the Tang Dynasty. The year of this visit was 644-645 AD. The Chinese have visited, traded with, and lived in Jambi for hundreds of years. One notable Chinese immigrant to Jambi was “The Hok.”

The Chinese population in Jambi are active and diligent entrepreneurs. Though some native Indonesians are at times resentful of the Chinese due to their success in business, the native Indonesians are no less competent intellectually nor less capable in business entrepreneurship than the Chinese. One possible factor between the two is that the Chinese children are taught from an early age to always be thinking about how to earn money, how to invest, how to generate and expand income, and how to become self-supporting.

Another reason for the social opposition against the Chinese is that during the Dutch colonial period the Dutch instituted a 3-leveled racial separation; the first level being Europeans, the second being foreigners from S.E. Asia (Chinese, Arabs, and Indians) and the third being the natives.