Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 14:34 GMT

Brunei: Information on the status and treatment of minority groups, particularly ethnic Chinese in Brunei

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 August 1989
Citation / Document Symbol BRN1825
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Brunei: Information on the status and treatment of minority groups, particularly ethnic Chinese in Brunei, 1 August 1989, BRN1825, available at: [accessed 20 February 2018]
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.


According to the 1981 census, the Chinese community, mostly non-citizens, comprised about 20.5 % of the total population. [The Far East and Australia 1983-1984 (London: Europa Publications Ltd., 1983), p.226.] The process of obtaining citizenship in Brunei is long and difficult. Those who have no claims to other nationalities and were "British-protected persons" prior to independence in 1984, are now either "stateless permanent or temporary residents." Although permanent residents are not permitted to own land, they utilize the 7-year renewable lease, which is the maximum amount of time for lease agreements in Brunei. [Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1988 (Washington: U.S. Department of State, 1989), p.738.]

In 1985, when a new political party, the Brunei National Democratic Party (BNDP) was formed, members of the Chinese community were forbidden to join, as were civil servants. However, the party that replaced the BNDP was the Brunei National United Party (1986-1988), and it permitted membership of Muslims and non-Muslims alike. [Europa World Year Book, p. 558.]

In 1985, the Sultan of Brunei indicated that the country would become a Muslim state in which preferential treatment would be given to the indigenous Malays. Consequently, several Hongkong and Taiwan Chinese, who were not permanent residents, were repatriated. [Europa World Year Book for 1989 (London: Europa Publishing Company, 1989), p.558.] Although much of the commercial activity has allowed the Chinese community to prosper, many are concerned about living in a land where only Malay citizens are favoured. To this end, some are emigrating to other nations, especially to Australia and Canada. [ibid.]

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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