Monday, March 21, 2005
Violence Against Chinese Christian Women in Indonesia Warrants Asylum, Ninth Circuit Panel Rules
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Violence against ethnic Chinese in Indonesia, particularly against women and Christians, is sufficiently pervasive to require that a Chinese Christian woman be found eligible for asylum, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday.
Overturning a ruling by a divided panel of the Board of Immigration Appeals, the court ruled that Marjorie Kinda Lolong’s petition for review be granted. The attorney general will now have the final decision as to whether Lolong, who applied for asylum while here as a student in 1998, may remain permanently in the United States.
Senior Judge Betty B. Fletcher, writing for the Ninth Circuit, noted that elements within the Indonesian military have been linked to the violence, even though the country’s president and other leaders have called for tolerance.
“Evidence of the government’s willingness to control the perpetrators of ethnic and religious violence in Indonesia fails to rebut the overwhelming evidence of the government’s inability to control those forces,” Fletcher wrote.
The jurist cited a “voluminous record that documents ongoing discrimination and violence against the ethnic Chinese minority in Indonesia,” which the court addressed in another asylum case last year.
Lolong, the judge noted, filed her application just months after riots in which dozens of ethnic Chinese women were raped; the State Department has estimated the number at 300. Lolong testified that one of the victims was a friend of hers, and that another friend had escaped a rape attempt; both women became afraid to leave their homes, she said.
Fletcher also cited evidence that anti-Chinese violence has spread to areas of the country where it had bee rare. “Indeed, the Indonesian government’s decision to permit Chinese language press and cultural displays has caused heightened resentment and acts of retaliation,” the judge said.
Fletcher cited testimony by a Southeast Asian Studies professor, Sylvia Tiwon of the University of California-Berkeley, that ethnic Chinese, who tend to be more prosperous than their Muslim neighbors, remain scapegoats for the country’s economic problems.
Because the Chinese are so “easily identified,” Tiwon, they often become victims of unrest initially unrelated to ethnic prejudice. She cited a clash between illegal vendors and police in 2000 in which the mobs turned on shops owned by ethnic Chinese.
Indonesia, with a history of violent political change, remains unstable, despite strides towards democracy, the expert said. Continued instability makes further attacks on Chinese likely, Tiwon said, adding that Chinese Christians are particularly at risk as a militant Islamic movement grows.
The evidence, Fletcher said, also supports Lolong’s claim that women are at particular risk.
“Even during periods of relative calm, ethnic Chinese and Christian girls and women face a very high risk of being subjected to racial and sexual harassment and abuse, and ethnically and religiously motivated attacks against women continue to occur,” the judge wrote.
Fletcher’s opinion was joined by Senior Judge John T. Noonan and Judge Sidney Thomas.
The case is Lolong v. Gonzales, 03-72384.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company