Thu, 04 Mar 1999

Cultural freedom for ethnic Chinese

I fully support the idea of Indonesia ratifying an international convention on the legal protection of and equal rights for ethnic minorities. In fact, without waiting for Indonesia's ratification of this convention, Habibie's administration should issue a regulation granting cultural freedom to the ethnic Chinese and revoking all prohibitions imposed on them. With the enforcement of such a regulation:

1. Ethnic Chinese in Indonesia will be able to use their Chinese names (such as Sie Beng Tat).

2. Chinese lessons may again be taught at private Chinese schools without a special permit from the government and publication in Chinese characters resume.

3. Private Chinese schools may be set up.

4. The Chinese New Year and other festivities peculiar to the ethnic Chinese may again be celebrated. The Lion Dance and other Chinese cultural pieces, including Chinese music, may again be performed.

5. Chinese Indonesians no longer need to show evidence of their Indonesian citizenship to the bureaucracy for administrative purposes. Their residential identity card will be sufficient for this purpose.

6. Chinese names and Chinese characters may be used for the names of companies and shops, in addition to Indonesian names and Roman letters.

In short, the ethnic Chinese will be granted cultural freedom and legal treatment equal to other Indonesian citizens. There will be no longer any restriction on ethnic Chinese children attending state schools and universities. Indonesian citizens of Chinese origin will be allowed to assume any governmental positions and also to join the Indonesian Armed Forces without any restrictions. They may join any sector of the civil service.

As for assimilation, religious beliefs and other matters, this will be left to the decision of individuals. Coercion and restrictions will no longer be employed. And Confucianism will be recognized as a religion in Indonesia.

The same thing should certainly be the case for Indonesian citizens of other origins living in Indonesia. There must be equal rights for citizens in all aspects of life.