There can be few quarters anywhere more desperate than Glodok, Jakarta's Chinatown, three months after it fell to mob violence. Wandering down the main commercial thoroughfare of Hayam Wuruk and its tributaries is a profoundly depressing experience. Many shop grilles are shut tight. Burnt out and looted shops, houses and offices decay in the tropical heat as children in rags pick through the rubble. Smashed windows in some buildings are left broken, their owners having fled the country or still engaged in battles with insurers. Young Chinese schoolgirls hurry home in groups, avoiding the shadows of abandoned buildings and averting their eyes from the stares of Indonesian men. 'We are living in terror in each day . . . there is no other word for it,' says Wilhelm Widojo from behind a barbed security grille in front of his family house on a lane off the main thoroughfare. 'No-one is doing any business. No-one trusts even their closest Indonesian neighbours. The Chinese people are buying swords and guns and even smuggling in tear gas. Those who can are preparing to leave or get their wives and children out. Believe me, this is no way to live.' Shortly before the violence in May, Chinatown seemed to be succeeding despite itself. With Chinese texts and culture - including the dragon dance - banned under long-term New Order edicts, the area still seemed to ring with bustle, commerce and a rough form of unity. Now, rotting in parts like an abandoned film set, it stands as a barometer for the rest of troubled Indonesia's threatened Chinese population, a commercially vital but harassed minority of six million people among 204 million. If it can recover, so can Indonesia, many here believe - pointing to private sector estimates of a US$40 billion (HK$309.6 billion) outflow over the past 18 months. Mr Widojo is a commodities dealer and a 35-year-old father of three. Like many Chinese Indonesians, he has taken a local name and does not speak the language of his great grandfather, who fled poverty in Fujian. Since the violence in May his grandfather and uncles have moved into his house, which has been in his family for generations. 'We make sure there is always someone awake and ready to sound the alarm. We can either shut ourselves in or make our way out the private back exit. We call that our evacuation plan.' Near his house I track down the home of a young bank clerk I met during May's violence. Her mother answers the door, explaining that her daughter has become very sick as tensions continue. 'She has not slept properly for weeks and the doctor is giving her all these tranquilisers. She cannot even eat properly and I am worried she will starve herself to death.' A family friend, Andre, constantly in fear of raids from nearby slums as depression bites, has started bribing local army officials to guard his house in East Jakarta. Often he gets anonymous, threatening phone calls in the early hours of the morning. His pet dog had its throat cut. His wife had a nervous breakdown and has fled to Singapore. He fears his marriage is over. Like many families, he says, his could not survive outside of Indonesia where they have lived under forced assimilation policies for five generations. Even so the family money is based in Singapore, Hong Kong and the US and is topped up with constant remittances and administered by a American-based uncle. It has been that way for four years, he says, adding that many families have made similar arrangements. 'What makes us angry are the two big myths: one, that we are all rich; and the other is that we can just pack up things and leave in times of trouble,' he said. 'We are Indonesian. Many of us can barely speak Chinese or have any real idea of the culture. There is nowhere for many of us to go. For better or for worse, Indonesia is our home.' Their existence has been one of potentially violent contradiction. They are pork-eating Buddhists in the world's largest Muslim state. Communist purges that followed Suharto's rise to power in 1965 saw an estimated 500,000 people butchered, including many Chinese. It was a time when rivers in East Java ran red with blood. Officially repressed since, in part because of resentment following Dutch colonial rule which created a Chinese trading elite, thousands have nevertheless prospered. Most of Indonesia's richest 200 people are ethnic Chinese businessmen, part of a cabal that built massive conglomerates with close ties to Mr Suharto's children. But three days of terror and claims from human rights workers that more than 160 women were gang-raped and tortured by mobs of Indonesian men have left mental wounds that may take generations to heal. 'Can things return? I think the short-term outlook is very bleak,' warns Jusuf Wanandi, chairman of the supervisory board of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta and a member of a prominent business family. 'Things have to change and I am not sure that they can. We need a complete reversal of the current situation. It's about recognition, acceptance, and respect and maybe these political reforms can start to bring that about.' Chinese had succeeded so well in business, he says, because in part they were excluded from most other fields, chiefly the civil service and the omnipotent military. For years, identity cards marked people down as ethnic Chinese. 'Suharto was using us like concubines. He wanted to enjoy the benefits of us without recognising us,' Mr Wanandi says. He holds out little hope under the rule of new President Bacharuddin Habibie for either economic or cultural change. 'I'm not sure he has any idea. He's an entertainer, a clown, a joke.' Dr Habibie has been quick to reassure Glodok residents and offered a clear olive branch during his recent speech on Independence Day but few concrete changes have yet been made. Mr Wanandi believes cultural matters are not as important to the local Chinese as respect, acceptance - and inclusion. 'We look with envy at Thailand where Chinese have merged fully with Thais over the years and are accepted in all walks of life from religion to politics. In Bangkok it is clear that two cultures have combined to the benefit of both. Maybe it is a Buddhist thing. Perhaps it would need the Muslim faith to open up a bit more.' 'I believe many of those who have left want to return for the simple reason that Indonesia is their home. But it will be difficult after what happened. We are all sure that there was some degree of military organisation in the riots. And there is no way the Chinese will feel secure unless there is real investigation into the rapes and so on, and a real sense of justice.' As protests about the torture and abuse of Chinese women spread from Hong Kong and Taipei to Beijing and Bangkok, pressure is mounting for speedy investigations and tough sentences. And amid the swirling tensions and publicity are fears the real tragedy is being diluted by wild distortion as off-shore groups spread false reports and fake pictures on the Internet. 'These crimes are so serious they need no exaggeration . . . and we must not lose sight of that,' says Marzuki Darusman, the widely-respected vice-chairman of Indonesia's National Human Rights Commission, an independent body set up by presidential decree in 1993. 'We want to work carefully and methodically and I can tell that the evidence we are obtaining so far is very strong; and, yes, it is apparent there were gang-rapes and, yes, some were very violent. We are still not ready for final, definitive conclusions.' Commission investigators say evidence gathered includes clinical semen tests that confirm that some women were raped by many different men. Mr Marzuki, who heads a fact-finding team investigating the rapes and the riots, says he cannot yet confirm claims by human rights groups that 168 victims have been logged, saying investigations are still continuing. He does however confirm that 20 victims have since died, most by suicide and some within hours of the offences. Many others have fled to Singapore, Taiwan and Australia, often with formal diplomatic help. Unlike some social workers and human rights' activists, Mr Marzuki is confident the Jakarta police view the matter with extreme seriousness and that convictions will result. Pressure for action is mounting too from an unlikely quarter. The Chinese Embassy is seeking to intensify its dialogue with Indonesia in the wake of the violence. 'We know the Indonesian Government is looking into the May riots and the rapes and the Chinese Government is keeping a close eye on the situation,' said Embassy Counsellor Duan Zengoi. 'We are treating it as a very serious matter.' Beijing sent ships to collect fleeing Chinese during purges in the 1950s and 1960s but nationality agreements between the two countries as part of normalising ties in the 1990s have changed all that, effectively limiting official reaction. By far the bulk of Indonesian Chinese are now Indonesian nationals. In diplomatic terms their plight is ultimately 'Jakarta's internal affair'. Back down on Hayam Wuruk, news of diplomatic exchanges and the work of a slew of rights' organisations counts for little. Daily gossip brings warnings of new rapes and claims that groups of thugs are abducting Chinese men and cutting their penises off. 'They say they want to stop us having children,' says Mr Widojo. 'How can anyone live under this pressure. I really don't think anyone in government really cares.' Despite soothing words, many still fear Dr Habibie's Muslim leanings and several cabinet ministers who they believe are firmly anti-Chinese. Instead of taking heart in new ethnic Chinese political parties, they fear next year's elections will spark in a rise in fundamentalism and the rhetoric of hate. 'The worst thing,' Mr Widojo says, 'Is that you really can't stay, but you really have nowhere else to live. They tell me I am Indonesian national yet I am starting to feel homeless as well as stateless. Tell me, why should I have to leave my home?'