• Thu
  • Jul 31, 2014
  • Updated: 2:50pm
NewsChina Insider

Chinese demand apology as Indonesian communist-purge film gets Oscar nod

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 January, 2014, 3:32pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 January, 2014, 4:07pm

An Indonesian movie's Oscar nomination has triggered heated discussions on Chinese social media this week, with the film's central theme -- a re-enactment of Indonesia's 1965-1966 anti-communist purge -- touching a sore point as this historical event has not been widely known to the mainland public.

The Act of Killing, an award-winning 2012 documentary focusing on a purge that killed more than 500,000 people, has been nominated in the Oscar's Best Documentary Feature category, and the report was carried by mainland newspapers including state mouthpiece People's Daily.

Anger and nationalistic sentiment were building on Tuesday as bloggers compared the Indonesian purge against suspected communists, many of whom were ethnic Chinese, to the 1937 Nanking Massacre where Japanese troops killed an estimated 300,000 Chinese.

Startled by the atrocities the film revealed, bloggers demanded that the Chinese government take a tougher stance against Indonesia and write the little-publicised killing into Chinese history books.

Others called for a tourism boycott against Bali, a now popular destination for Chinese tourists but which was the site of some of the worst killings in 1965. 

On Sinaw Weibo, discussions of the 1965 killing also led to talks of Indonesia's 1998 anti-Chinese riots, during which thousands of ethnic Chinese were killed and hundreds of women were gang-raped, according to historical accounts. Gruesome pictures of their executions were posted, drawing anger and condemnation. 

"China should stop sending any foreign aid to this barbarian country," wrote a microblogger.

"How brutal are you, Indonesia?" read other Weibo posts.

At one point, criticism was directed at the Chinese government for failing to rescue Chinese citizens during the 1998 riots. Yet other bloggers soon dismissed the accusation and argued that officials at the Chinese consulate at that time risked own lives to help Chinese nationals. 

In 1965, after the Indonesian Sukarno government was overthrown and replaced by a military regime led by General Suharto, the country’s right-wing leaders recruited gangs, known as "death squads", to wipe out suspected Communists.

It is estimated that 500,000 to more than a million were killed by local vigilantes and thugs from October 1965 to the early months of 1966. The massacre spread from Jakarta to Central and East Java and later, to the island of Bali.

In the film, American-British director Joshua Oppenheimer invited members of one such "death squad" to re-enact their killings for the cameras. Dramatic scenes were produced to depict their memories and feelings about the killings. 

The killings are omitted in most Indonesian history books and had received little international attention, a fact that many Chinese bloggers found disturbing.

"Indonesia has never apologised over the 1998 massacre against the Chinese," wrote Shanghai-based consultant Chen Zonghe. "Both Indonesia and China have to step out and offer an explanation for this history."


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This article is now closed to comments

Indonesian Chinese - Pawns in good times and scapegoats in bad.
Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s famous remark - “The Overseas Chinese are the mother of the revolution”... The mother got raped in Indonesia and the children did nothing???
Indonesia's 1965-1966 anti-communist purge was the result of a coup against Sukarno who sided with the Indonesian communists by General Suharto supported by the CIA. A lot of those killed were not even communists. Suharto went on to rule for 30 years and looted 40 Billion USD only to be brought down by the 1998 financial crisis when even the Indonesian military was unwilling to prolong his kleptocratic rule. The slaughter of 500,000 to a million was later repeated in East Timor where the invasion of east Timor by Indonesia again have the support of Australia and the US for just about the same reason as the Indonesian coup in 1965.. East Timor had to suffer 30 years of brutal Indonesian rule when 1/3 of the population was decimated. Again the US hegemon can find people like Suharto to do their dirty work much like getting Shinzo Abe to do the dirty work in Asia again.
china needs to take a chill pill.
"the Indonesian purge against suspected communists, many of whom were ethnic Chinese". This statement is false. Suharto was close with the Chinese - especially the business community - only a minority was caught up in it. The Chinese were targeted in 1998 because Suharto had been ousted could no longer protect them.
More fact-checking for sensitive topics, please.
I am a chinese-indonesian, i was born 1981 and raised in indonesia and let me tell you for a fact that Soeharto was very oppressive towards chinese culture in Indonesia. Soeharto is close to a FEW chinese businessman but it's purely opportunistic. Soeharto is an opportunist who seize his power with western backing imperialism. Until this day a lot of human rights violation that happen in Indonesia is caused by zionism because Indonesian politic is very much the result of imperialism. So, it's silly to say that Soeharto protects the chinese minority. He is dethroned from his regime because of 1998 economic crisis and protest from his own people. The 1998 riot is also another event that is being created by a suspected figure from the military called Prabowo (he was soeharto's son in law) who wanted to seize the situation by creating chaos and lead up as a leader.Prabowo's coup d'etat thankfully failed and he was discharge by Habibie (who rule after Soeharto). But, now Prabowo wants to run as president again in the next general election which is going to be held on April 2014 in indonesia. He promoted Ahok (basuki cahaya purnama) (Jakarta's current vice governor) as a PR to clean up his name in any association towards anti-chinese sentiments in 1998 riot. Check it out. This fact is nothing new. It's general public knowledge in Indonesia. Prabowo Subiantois also involved in Timorese genocide. He is a war criminal. It's on wikipedia already.
Were you there ?
Robert Cribb
We need to be absolutely clear about what happened in 1965-66. Chinese businesses and homes were sacked and burned, but Chinese as an ethnic group were not targeted, except in a couple of relatively minor incidents (minor in comparison with the slaughter that was going on elsewhere). The killings targeted Communist party members and associates. Very few Chinese were engaged with the Party in Indonesia and so very few were targeted. Around 500,000 Indonesians were killed (about 0.5% of a population of 100 million); around 2000 Chinese Indonesians were killed (less than 0.1% of a Chinese Indonesian population of 3 million).
We should not ignore the targeting of Chinese in 1998, but we should also not imagine that the circumstances were the same in 1965-66.




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