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Indonesia: The largest centres of Chinese Indonesian population; reports of attacks in these areas and protection available; whether some areas of Indonesia are considered more welcoming than others to Chinese Indonesians (2004-2006)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 29 March 2006
Citation / Document Symbol IDN101031.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Indonesia: The largest centres of Chinese Indonesian population; reports of attacks in these areas and protection available; whether some areas of Indonesia are considered more welcoming than others to Chinese Indonesians (2004-2006), 29 March 2006, IDN101031.E, available at: [accessed 31 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Information on which areas of Indonesia are home to the largest concentrations of Chinese Indonesians was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. Between 1930 and 1999, no census took into account the ethnicity of the Indonesian population (Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies Apr. 2005, 97). The 2000 census, however, does provide information on ethnicity, although the data on Chinese Indonesians is "severely flawed," according to Jamie Mackie (ibid.), a professor emeritus at Australian National University (ASSA n.d.). In the 2000 census, many Chinese Indonesians reportedly did not self-identify due to fears related to the 1998 race riots (ibid., 100; see also The Economist 4 Feb. 2006). In an article in the Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies, Mackie stated that, "whether the non-reporting Chinese numbered only a small proportion or vastly more in any region, or nationally, is quite unknown and unknowable" (Apr. 2005, 100). In the article, Mackie also referred to the 2000 census data as reported by Leo Suryadinata, Evi Nurvidya Arifin and Aris Ananta in their 2003 book, Indonesia's Population: Ethnicity and Religion in a Changing Political Landscape (Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies Apr. 2005, 100). The census reportedly showed that the ethnic Chinese made up one of the eight largest ethnic groups in eleven of the thirty Indonesian provinces (Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies Apr. 2005, 100). Fifteen per cent of the total number of ethnic Chinese in Indonesia lived in the remaining nineteen provinces (ibid.). Further information on the 2000 census, including a breakdown of the Chinese Indonesian population by province, could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

The Encyclopedia of Diasporas reported that, in 2004, areas referred to as "Chinatown" could still be found in most cities in Indonesia (2004, 801). A 26 January 2006 Agence France-Presse (AFP) article pointed out that members of the ethnic Chinese community in Indonesia could be found "scattered across" the country. The city of Medan on Sumatra island is "unique" in Indonesia, according to The Straits Times, because, in 2004, ethnic Chinese made up 20 per cent of the city's population (Straits Times 28 Feb. 2004), while Chinese Indonesians made up only between 1.5 per cent and 4 per cent of the total Indonesian population (ibid.; Dow Jones International News 20 Jan. 2004; The Economist 4 Feb. 2006, The Straits Times 3 Feb. 2006). An AFP article described Medan as "the bastion of ethnic Chinese on Sumatra island" (5 Apr. 2005). Elsewhere on Sumatra, Bangka Belitung is home to Chinese Indonesians who make their living as hawkers, farm hands and labourers (Straits Times 3 Feb. 2006). In northern Sumatra, less than five per cent of the population is Chinese, although the local economy is largely sustained by Chinese businesses (The Wall Street Journal Europe 9 Feb. 2005). In Banda Aceh, Chinese Indonesians own between 50 and 70 per cent of businesses (ibid.) and, according to AFP, they have lived in that part of Aceh province in relative peace for decades (5 Apr. 2005).

Chinese Indonesians can also be found in unspecified numbers in West Kalimantan (The Straits Times 3 Feb. 2006), including in Pontianak where, according to The Jakarta Post, Chinese culture has been retained (28 Jan. 2006), and on the northern coast of Java, where Chinese immigrants settled in the 1400s (ibid.). North and West Jakarta are populated predominantly by Chinese Indonesians, The Straits Times reported (3 Feb. 2006). The Encyclopedia of Diasporas pointed out that the northern part of Jakarta, known as Glodok, is dominated by the Chinese (2004, 801).

Information on whether some areas of Indonesia are considered more welcoming than others to Chinese Indonesians could not be found among the sources consulted. However, a 9 February 2005 article in The Wall Street Journal Europe article remarked that "thousands" of Chinese Indonesians affected by the 26 December 2004 tsunami in Aceh province sought refuge in Medan and Jakarta.

For information on reports of attacks on Chinese Indonesians, please consult IDN101030.E of 28 March 2006.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


The Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia (ASSA). N.d. "Directory of Fellows." [Accessed 29 Mar. 2003]

Agence France-Presse (AFP). 26 January 2006. "New Year Freedoms for Chinese in Indonesia Mask Discrimination." (Factiva)
_____. 5 April 2005. Ahmad Pathoni. "Ethnic Chinese Back in Business as Tsunami-Hit Aceh Begins Rebuilding." (Dialog)

Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies [Canberra]. April 2005. Vol. 41, No. 1. Jamie Mackie. "How Many Chinese Indonesians?" [Accessed 21 Mar. 2006]

Dow Jones International News. 20 January 2004. "Indonesian Chinese to Hold Big Lunar New Yr Celebration." (Factiva)

The Economist [London]. 4 February 2006. "The Happy Chinese – Indonesia." (Factiva)

Encyclopedia of Diasporas: Immigrant and Refugee Cultures Around the World. 2004. Vol. 1. Mely G. Tan. "Ethnic Chinese in Indonesia." Edited by Melvin Ember, Carol R. Ember and Ian Skoggard. New York: Kluwer Academic.

The Jakarta Post. 28 January 2006. Tantri Yuliandini. "New Identity for Ethnic Chinese Youth." [Accessed 2 Mar. 2006]

The Straits Times [Singapore]. 3 February 2006. Devi Asmarani. "Behind the Festive Cheer, All's Not Well." (Factiva)
_____. 28 February 2004. "Chinese Wake Up to Politics." (Factiva)

The Wall Street Journal Europe. 9 February 2005. Jay Solomon. "Chinese Group Helps Aceh Refugees Rebuild." (Factiva)

Additional Sources Consulted

Publication: Chinese Indonesians: Remembering, Distorting, Forgetting. 2005. Edited by Tim Lindsey and Helen Pausacker.

Oral sources: Two oral sources did not provide information within the time constraints of this Response.

Internet sources, including: Asian Ethnicity, Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l'homme (FIDH), Minority Rights Group International, Statistics Indonesia (BPS), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Resource Information Center, United States Department of State.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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