Thu, 04 Aug 1994

Cautions urged in allowing use of Chinese characters

JAKARTA (JP): The government said its policy to allow the use of Chinese characters in the tourism sector has been carefully thought of, taking into account both the national interests and the security situation.

Armed Forces (ABRI) Chief Gen. Feisal Tanjung said the relaxation of the use of Chinese literature for tourism would not spark social unrest nor pose political threat in Indonesia.

"We have discussed everything and there will be no problem," Feisal said, adding ABRI would stay alert on possible negative impacts.

The policy, announced by Coordinating Minister of Political Affairs and Security Soesilo Soedarman on Tuesday, drew mixed reactions from members of the House of Representatives.

Aisyah Aminy, chairperson of Commission I on security, and her deputy H.A. Sazili aired contrasting views on the new policy.

"I don't think the Indonesian public is ready to accept the policy," said Aisyah of the Moslem-based United Development Party (PPP).

She pointed at public sentiment over the ethnic Chinese domination of the economy, which has become a focus of social envy and occasionally erupted into anti-Chinese violence.

She cast doubt over the effectiveness of the plan in wooing tourists from China because the Chinese represented only a minor portion of holidaymakers visiting Indonesia.

Sazili supported the government plan, but cautioned that it be carefully implemented so as not to provoke unnecessary violence from those who opposed it.

"I believe the government thoughtfully weighed it up before making the policy," said the member from the government-backed Golkar faction.

Soesilo has said that the ban on the use of Chinese characters is still in force but an exception has been made for hoteliers, tour operators and recreation centers for the purpose of informing and entertaining their Chinese patrons.


The ban against the use of Chinese language in any printed publication, whether imported is a legacy of the anti-Chinese sentiments that sparked in the mid-1960s. In 1967 Indonesia severed relations with China and also barred the teaching of the Chinese language.

Diplomatic ties were restored in 1990 and trade between the two countries have since boomed. Now Indonesia is vying for the influx of Chinese tourists and entrepreneurs.

Minister of Tourism, Post and Telecommunications Joop Ave said yesterday the new policy is an important move to attract Chinese- speaking tourists from prospering mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore.

He said millions of Mandarin-speaking holidaymakers would swarm major world tourist destinations, including those in Indonesia.

"We will certainly be left behind if we use only the English language to serve tourists," he told journalists before attending a cabinet meeting at the Bina Graha presidential office.

He stressed that the government would contain the use of Chinese literature to tourism purposes and the ban on the use of Chinese characters in general publications remained.

The government has also allowed limited teachings of Chinese language, for hotel employees, shopkeepers and tourist guides. (pan)