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Friday, May 15, 1998 Published at 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK

Chinese flee Jakarta
image: [ Many Chinese look for places to hide ]
Many Chinese look for places to hide

Many ethnic Chinese are fleeing from Jakarta as riots and looting escalate.

The Chinese minority, who dominate the commerce and industry sector, have been the target of much of the violence that has swept across Indonesia in recent months.

[ image: Locking up and leaving]
Locking up and leaving
In recent days Chinese-owned shops have been looted and burned, and nine people were killed when a bar was set alight in a Chinese neighbourhood on Wednesday night.

China has said that its embassy is ready to help its nationals.

"Our embassy in Indonesia will do its utmost to provide the necessary assistance based on the different needs of Chinese citizens, Hong Kong residents and compatriots from Taiwan," a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said.

The Chinese embassy said it had already rescued more than 70 Hong Kong people trapped in three companies in an industrial area in north Jakarta.

Readers e-mail their views

The spate of violence has been confirmed by some of the readers of BBC News online in Indonesia.

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Jakarta: "columns of smoke in every direction" (1' 57")
One ethnic Chinese person e-mailed us to say that even occupied Chinese homes are being looted and escape is not always an option.

" The looters have burned Chinese homes even with people inside them. The Chinese scramble to find places to hide. They cannot leave the country because the crowds block the roads to the airport."

The BBC's Simon Ingram in Jakarta: "scenes of mayhem" (1' 49")
Engel Gunawan, a Chinese person born in Indonesia but now living in the United States, also e-mailed BBC News online, saying that the Chinese are again being made into scapegoats.

"The Chinese in Indonesia are like the Jews during Hitler's time. The Indonesians get themselves in the mess but the Chinese are always to blame."

As many of the ethnic Chinese community arrive at the airports of neighbouring countries, they are relating how rioters tried to block their passage out of Jakarta.

One man who arrived at Singapore airport said looters and rioters blocked his way when he tried to leave his factory. He said his route to Jakarta airport was littered with bricks and burnt out cars.

Others who escaped said looters had systematically targetted the large houses and expensive cars found in Jakarta's Chinese neighbourhoods.

Underlying racial tension

For the Chinese, memories are still strong of the near genocidal killings of the 1960s, when hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered in the anti-communist backlash that accompanied President Suharto's rise to power.

The violence was nominally directed against suspected communists, but many ethnic Chinese were targeted because of Beijing's backing of the communist movement, and the economic power of the Chinese community.

[ image: Looting and arson is breaking out all over Jakarta]
Looting and arson is breaking out all over Jakarta
The disproportionate wealth of the Chinese community has long been resented by other citizens, and they are frequent scapegoats in tough times.

Though born in Indonesia, they are often regarded as being loyal more to their ancestral land than their native country.

In March, the Indonesian island of Java was the scene of violence against the local Chinese population.

The racial element was highlighted by the attempts of non-ethnic Chinese shop owners to defend their property by putting up signs saying, "Belonging to an Indonesian".

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