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Malaysia: Reports of discrimination against Malaysians of Chinese descent (June 2004 - October 2007)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 5 November 2007
Citation / Document Symbol MYS102643.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Malaysia: Reports of discrimination against Malaysians of Chinese descent (June 2004 - October 2007), 5 November 2007, MYS102643.E, available at: [accessed 29 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.

Chinese Malays represent approximately 25 percent of the population (HRWF 17 July 2007; Asia Times Online 24 Mar. 2006) and there are four Chinese-language newspapers in Malaysia (US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 2a). Media sources indicate that Malays of Chinese origin "dominate" the business sector (AFP 29 Aug. 2005; Asia Times Online 24 Mar. 2006; Reuters 24 Aug. 2005). As well, the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) is a political association which is part of the governing National Front (Barisan Nasional, BN), a coalition of 15 parties (Freedom House 2007).

According to media sources, Malaysia has known relative peace amongst its ethnic communities since riots against the Chinese minority occurred in 1969 (Asia Times Online 24 Mar. 2006; AFP 17 Nov. 2006; AFP 29 Aug. 2005). Although Islam is the official religion, the constitution guarantees religious freedom to minorities (HRWF 17 July 2007). Sources indicate that minorities are free to practise their culture and religion without restrictions and that the government does not impose restrictions in the field of education (AFP 29 Aug. 2005; Asia Times Online 24 Mar. 2006).

However, in 2005, the government renewed an affirmative action policy initiated in 1969 after the race riots (Freedom House 2007). Under governmental provisions, ethnic Malays and other indigenous people are given advantages concerning property ownership, civil service work, access to higher education and other benefits (US 6 Mar. 2007; Asia Times Online 24 Mar. 2006; Freedom House 2007). The affirmative action policy, known as the New Economic Policy, was adopted to lift the economic condition of ethnic Malays (ibid.). Sources indicate that the policy has created tensions among communities and a "feeling of being discriminated against" for minorities (AFP 29 Aug. 2005; Asia Times Online 24 Mar. 2006). According to Asia Times Online, the results of a survey on race relations published in March 2006 clearly indicated that racism and stereotyping are significant issues in Malaysia (ibid.).

Additional information on specific examples of discrimination against Malaysians of Chinese descent was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, according to the United States Department of State, the Malaysian police have been accused of ethnic profiling in arresting Chinese women deemed to be prostitutes (US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 5). Furthermore, a 17 November 2006 Reuters article reported on a confrontation between protesters and Malaysian police officers following attempts by local authorities to demolish a Chinese temple on the island of Penang because it was not built with the proper approval.

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.


Agence France-Presse (AFP). 17 November 2006. "Malaysia's Ruling Party Seeks Racial Harmony." (Factiva)
_____. 29 August 2005. "Malaysia's Races Live Peacefully – But Separately." [Accessed 30 Oct. 2007]

Asia Times Online. 24 March 2006. Baradan Kuppusamy. "Racism Alive and Well in Malaysia." (Factiva)

Freedom House. 2007. "Malaysia." Freedom in the World 2007. [Accessed 26 Oct. 2007]

Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF). 17 July 2007. "Malaysia an Islamic State But Minority Rights Protected, Says Deputy PM." (Factiva)

Reuters. 17 November 2006. "Malaysian Police Fire in Temple Demolition Protest." ( [Accessed 26 Oct. 2007]
_____. 24 August 2005. Jalil Hamid. "Malaysia Agonizes over Race Policy, 35 Years on." [Accessed 26 Oct. 2007]

United States (US). 6 March 2007. Department of State. "Malaysia." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2006. [Accessed 18 Oct. 2007]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) and the National Human Rights Society Hakam did not respond to requests for information within the time constraints of this Response.

Internet sites, including: Asia Observer, Asian Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Malaysiakini, National Human Rights Society Hakam, One World, Southeast Asian Press Alliance, The Star (Malaysia).

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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