Anti-Chinese sentiment gaining ground in Malaysia


Recently, a racial incident again took place in a Malaysian school. A middle school history teacher in Johor told a student of Chinese descent to “go back to China.” The incident came mere months after another case of schoolyard racism when a middle school principal insulted his Chinese students with similar remarks at the end of last year.

Although racial remarks and activities are often punished firmly by the Malaysian authorities, these discordant voices continue to drum in schools in attempts of clearing out Chinese descendants.

For the middle school principal, however, the only consequence for his behavior last year was being reassigned from his post. This did not appease the anger of the Chinese community. Moreover, it was shown to be a tacit approval for anti-Chinese sentiment by the government.

This time, it is a history teacher who made such improper remarks. The saying goes: Take history as a mirror, and we can see the rise and fall of dynasties. Obviously, this history teacher does not measure up to his supposed expertise, and his ignorance is on clear display as he stirs up racial disputes. Malaysia is a multiracial and multicultural nation with Malays, Chinese and Indians as its three major ethnicities. All three settled on the islands almost at the same time; none is technically aborigines in Malaysia.

However, the anti-Chinese sentiment has been deeply rooted. Malays account for 60 percent of the population, Chinese 26 percent and Indians 8 percent. The current administration implements preferential policies to Malays, which has further deepened the racial discrimination in the society.

Chinese descendents in Southeast Asian countries constitute the majority of the foreign Chinese. Minorities in all, the Chinese descendents have still played important roles in the social and economical developments of these countries. Even in the hardest time, they did not leave the countries but stuck to their businesses there. As citizens, they made contribution to the social and economical restorations to the countries where they reside. This was especially the case in Malaysia.

Therefore, “Go back to China” is no small thing. It reflects a lack of sensitivity to racism in Malaysia, as well as the lack of understanding for the local Chinese. The Chinese descendents do not want the government to simply adopt measures to deal with improper remarks or activities as a formality. They want a deeper, intrinsic kind of respect for their community. And instead of fanning the flames of racism and condoning anti-Chinese behaviors, they hope government would take on a meaningful role in maintaining the unity of the ethnicities.

A politician once pointed out this of the Malaysian government: “If you knock it, it will shake. But if you knock harder, it will break. It looks well on the outside, but ill on the inside.”

Moreover, a Malaysian congressman confronted the government, saying it was a great shame that although his party had won an overwhelming 91 percent of parliament seats in the election in March, 2004, the prime minister did not take this chance to promote a national unity. On the contrary, ethnic separatists are more influential than ever, bringing a new crisis to the country.