Glodok in West Jakarta, recognized as Jakarta’s Chinatown, has gone through bloody historical moments of racial discrimination. The rise of Soeharto, which marked the era when diplomatic relations between Indonesia and China fell to their worst, also saw discrimination perpetuated against Chinese Indonesians through prohibitions on traditional Chinese rites and activities. The prohibitions were regulated through Presidential Decree No. 14/1967 on Chinese religion, belief and tradition.
The discrimination peaked in 1998 around the fall of Soeharto’s regime, when hatred toward Chinese Indonesians manifested in violence. Many businesses and shops in Chinatown fell victim to brutal looting. At that time, storeowners would display a banner saying “Pribumi” (Native) in front of their closed shops. Other people put Muslim prayer rugs in front of their homes as a sign that they were Muslims. Many Chinese Indonesian women were also raped.
Indonesia’s fourth president Abdurrahman Wahid “Gus Dur” revoked Presidential Decree No. 14/1967. The old decree instructed that Chinese religious rites had to be conducted discreetly.
Following the revocation, Chinese New Year and Cap Go Meh could be celebrated openly, and today public spaces boast red lantern decorations and lion dance performances during Chinese New Year celebrations.
However, more than two decades after the reformation era began, identity politics returned during the 2017 gubernatorial election, and again during the 2019 presidential election. Rising political tensions have left Chinatown residents feeling the cold sense of anxiety and alertness once again. (gis/mut)