chapter  3
Spheres of speculation and middling transnational migrants: Chinese Indonesians in the Asia-Pacific D O NA L D M . NONINI
Pages 30

During the days of mid-May 1998, panicking ethnic Chinese abandoned their devalued luxury cars on the approaches to Jakarta International Airport, desperate to catch whatever flights to foreign destinations they might be able to buy tickets for. From late 1997 to mid-1998, as the Indonesian economy foundered due to the sudden and massive withdrawal of foreign capital from Indonesian banks and corporations and the radical devaluation of the rupiah, Chinese Indonesians, and their homes and businesses, became the targets for looting, arson, rape and even murder by pribumis (‘indigenous’, i.e., non-Chinese Indonesians) in cities and towns in Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi. To mention the most serious incidents: in January 1998, in the rural town of Ujang Pandang in Sulawesi, more than 1,000 Chinese shop-houses were burned to the ground and several Chinese were killed or assaulted. Later, from April to July, Chinese were attacked and their shop-houses looted, then set afire, in the cities of Medan in Sumatra, Solo and Jakarta in central Java, and Surabaya in eastern Java. Christian churches, to which many Chinese belonged, were also targets for arson. The violence culminated in the events of 12-14 May 1998 in Jakarta, when approximately 1,200 persons were killed, hundreds were beaten and injured, scores of Chinese women were raped – 168 assaults were confirmed – and thousands of shop-houses were set on fire, damaged or looted (Aglionby 1998; Volunteers for Humanity 1998a, 1998b, 1998c). Chinese Indonesians have subsequently referred to these events simply as ‘May’ events, which seared the consciousness of many of them. Violence continued into late 1998, with Chinese targeted in Llokseumawe in Aceh (Torchia 1998) while in Jakarta, human rights activists investigating the rapes were harassed, intimidated and, in the case of one woman, tortured to death (Mydans 1998; Heryanto 1999: 322).