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Indonesian activist told to shut up over land rights

Ethnic Chinese lawyer told to leave Yogyakarta province if he continues legal battle over 'discriminatory' land rules

Indonesian activist told to shut up over land rights

Handoko, an ethnic Chinese lawyer, is fighting against an edict that prohibits Indonesians of Chinese descent from owning land. (Photo supplied)

An ethnic Indonesian Chinese lawyer has been told to get out of Yogyakarta province if cannot accept a 40-year-old edict prohibiting people of Chinese descent from owning land. 

Yogyakarta, the only region in Indonesia still governed by a pre-colonial monarchy — the Sultan of Yogyakarta who serves as the hereditary governor — still upholds the edict issued by the governor in 1975, which gives only indigenous people the right to own land.

The edict was issued at a time of deep mistrust of ethnic Chinese people, who were accused of being complicit in a communist plot to kill senior military officers in a coup attempt 10 years earlier.

Handoko, an ethnic Chinese lawyer is trying to have the courts overturn the edict, saying it is racist and discriminatory. Local authorities say it is in place to reduce the wealth gap between the Chinese and indigenous Indonesians.

The lawyer filed an appeal on Feb. 28 after his petition was rejected by the district court.

Kanjeng Gusti Pangeran Haryo Hadiwinoto, brother of Yogyakarta governor Sultan Hamengkubuwono X told Handoko to leave the province if he does not like the edict.

"I remind my Chinese friends to remember to not just demand rights. You live and die here, if you do not want to [obey the edict], leave Yogyakarta," he said last week.

However, Handoko remained defiant.

"I will fight to end this discrimination," he told ucanews.com on March 4.

Authorities cannot discriminate against its citizens based on race, he said.

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"The situation in 1975 when the edict was issued is much different from now," he said.

He said lots of mixed marriages since then means the edict also affects indigenous Indonesians as well.

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