Wed, 03 Aug 1994

Ban eased on Chinese literature

JAKARTA (JP): The government yesterday slightly eased the ban against the use of Chinese literature and teaching of the Chinese language, the legacy of the anti-Chinese sentiments of the 1960s.

Coordinating Minister of Political Affairs and Security Soesilo Soedarman announced yesterday that hotels and recreation centers can publish brochures and programs in Chinese for the benefit of their Chinese patrons.

The government expects the new policy to draw more trade and tourism from mainland China.

"The policy was made in anticipation of the increasing arrivals of Chinese-speaking tourists," Soesilo told reporters after presiding over a meeting of cabinet ministers under his charge.

Although Indonesia re-established ties with China in 1990 after a 23-year hiatus, the government has continued to ban the use of Chinese characters in any publications, whether locally printed or imported. At one time, the use of Chinese characters was even considered subversive.

The only exception was given to Harian Indonesia, a government-owned newspaper, which uses Chinese characters.

Soesilo said hotels and entertainment places are now being encouraged to subscribe to the daily for the benefit of their Chinese guests.

Hotels and travel bureaus are now allowed to print brochures in Chinese to advertise their facilities and tourist attractions as well as package tours, but they will still be subject to official scrutiny, Soesilo said.

"All the materials have to be printed in the publishing houses designated by the government and copies must be made available to the government," he said.

Juanda Airport

The government is also relaxing slightly the ban against the teaching of the Chinese language. Such courses will be strictly limited to people working in the tourism industry.

Courses on functional Mandarin are now available for tourist guides, hotel employees, shopkeepers and travel bureau operators, Soesilo said.

Artists, masters of ceremony and employees of hotels and entertainment places are free to organize programs in the Chinese language as a media of communication with their guests.

Another measure taken to court more Chinese tourists is the opening of Juanda Airport in Surabaya, East Java, as the third immigration entry point for Chinese tourists. Previously, they could enter only through Jakarta and Medan.

The ban against the use of Chinese characters in publication materials and against the teaching of the Chinese language came in the wake of the 1965 coup attempt blamed on the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), which was subsequently outlawed.

Indonesia severed diplomatic ties with China two years later, accusing Beijing of playing a role in the coup attempt. Ties were restored in 1990 and the two countries have since bolstered their trade and investment relationships.

But elements of the anti-Chinese legacy remains to this day.

Soesilo said the new policy was not in conflict with the old regulations but declined to go into detail.


Soesilo said the meeting yesterday also agreed to step up control of forestry management because of concern over the rapid loss of tropical forests due to logging activities.

Among the actions that the government will take to preserve 143 million hectares of forests across the country are the imposition of more severe punishments for law breakers, the holding of tree-planting campaigns in villages, the establishment of timber ports and the imposition of stricter rules on the use of chain saws.

"Timber will be maintained as a prime commodity but the policy will be balanced with better forestry and industrial management," Soesilo said.

He said the government plans to recruit 5,000 forest rangers each fiscal year from now because the existing 6,500 rangers are far from adequate.

Yesterday's meeting also endorsed the formation of local coast guard units to secure marine resources as proposed by the State Minister of Environment, Sarwono Kusumaatmadja.

The guard units are to be formed out of concern over the deteriorating conditions of marine resources, notably coral reefs and mangroves, as well as the problem of sea pollution. (pan)