Tuesday, June 23, 1998 P
ublished at 15:53 GMT 16:53
UK Ethnic Chinese urged back to Indonesia
Indonesia feels the pain of increasing poverty A Muslim leader and a prominent ethnic Chinese businessman have urged ethnic Chinese who fled last month's rioting in Indonesia to return home to help revive the stricken economy.
In a joint statement, Abdurrahman Wahid and William Suryajaya also called on the Indonesian government to guarantee the safety of the ethnic Chinese, who were targeted in the unrest in Jakarta and elsewhere.
"Their return is very important in the effort to help the recovery of the national economy. So will you please return, because we need you to revive our economy," said Abdurrahman Wahid, chairman of Indonesia's largest Muslim organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama.
While the ethnic Chinese make up only about 3% of the country's 200 million-strong population, they controlled almost three quarters of the economy, and were often resented for their wealth by the indigenous Muslim majority.
Tens of thousands have fled the rioting that has swept over the country.
William Suryajaya, founder of the country's biggest car manufacturer Astra International, said he was optimistic the Chinese would return when they felt secure enough to run their businesses.
"We must understand they are still experiencing trauma over the events of May 13 and 14 in which the ethnic Chinese, in particular, became the target of looting, raping and killing," he said.
'Systematic rape' of ethnic Chinese women
The appeal came as further details emerged of the rape of hundreds of ethnic Chinese women during the rioting.
The ethnic Chinese were the main focus of the Indonesian violence. Many died as their shops were burned to the ground.
Reports are now emerging that rioters also systematically raped women and girls as they went from house to house, looting and burning.
Women's groups said there was little or no army or police protection for the Chinese, and that some of the women have since committed suicide.
The Indonesian Women's Affairs Minister Tuti Allawiyah said she has not received accurate data of the numbers who were raped.
"It seems that the rape victims are keeping their cases secret and that we have difficulties unveiling them," she said.
An ethnic Chinese hotel manager, Lim Sian Tie, said many women had been gang raped, and were too traumatised to talk about it.
"The trauma is so unbearable, they don't want to see anybody. That is quite understandable.
"If they are known to have been gang raped they would prefer to commit suicide," he said.