The Netherlands has for most of its history quite a prosperous country. I wish I could say that all this wealth was always begotten in a fair way, but that would be a lie. The Dutch were ruthless in their quest for the things they desired.
From the arrival of the first Dutch ships in the late 16th century, to the declaration of independence in 1945, Dutch control over the Indonesian archipelago was always tenuous. Although Java was dominated by the Dutch, many areas remained independent throughout much of this time, including Aceh, Bali, Lombok and Borneo. There were numerous wars and disturbances across the archipelago as various indigenous groups resisted efforts to establish a Dutch hegemony, which weakened Dutch control and tied up its military forces. Piracy remained a problem until the mid-19th century. Finally in the early 20th century, imperial dominance was extended across what was to become the territory of modern-day Indonesia.
The first Dutch expedition set sail for the East Indies in 1595 to access spices directly from Asia. When it made a 400% profit on its return, other Dutch expeditions soon followed. Recognising the potential of the East Indies trade, the Dutch government amalgamated the competing companies into the United East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC).
The VOC was granted a charter to wage war, build fortresses, and make treaties across Asia. A capital was established in Batavia , which became the center of the VOC’s Asian trading network.
The sun that rose over Batavia,(now called Jakarta) the Dutch colonial capital on the island of Java, on October 9, 1740, revealed a city on the verge of catastrophe. Two days earlier, Chinese laborers, unemployed and unsettled by rumors that they would be deported. Allegedly led by a man called Nie Hoe Kong, they ambushed and murdered 50 Dutch colonial troops. Governor-General Adriaan Valckenier declared that any uprising would be met with deadly force.
In response, he sent 1,800 regular troops, accompanied by schutterij (militia) and eleven battalions of conscripts to stop the revolt; they established a curfew and cancelled plans for a Chinese festival Fearing that the Chinese would conspire against the colonials by candlelight, those inside the city walls were forbidden to light candles and were forced to surrender everything down to the smallest kitchen knife. This was intended to protect the colonial and indigenous population from the Chinese. Meanwhile, rumours spread among the other ethnic groups in Batavia, including slaves from Bali and Sulawesi, Bugis, and Balinese troops, that the Chinese were plotting to kill, rape, or enslave them.
These groups pre-emptively burned houses belonging to ethnic Chinese along Besar River. The Dutch followed this with an assault on Chinese settlements elsewhere in Batavia in which they burned houses and killed people. The Dutch politician and critic of colonialism W. R. van Hoëvell wrote that “pregnant and nursing women, children, and trembling old men fell on the sword. Defenseless prisoners were slaughtered like sheep”.
In the days that followed, Chinese homes were raided, their inhabitants taken outside and imprisoned or murdered on the spot. Cannons were brought to bear against the Chinese sections of the city, and soon entire blocks were aflame. Survivors, many of whom took refuge in small villages or in the forests surrounding the city, were sought and slaughtered.
This went on for nearly two weeks. By the time the violence ended,10,000 Chinese had died in and around the colonial capital. Although I ceasefire was called on November 2dn, the Dutch troops kept looting until the 28th of November 1740.
Most accounts of the massacre estimate that 10,000 Chinese were killed within Batavia’s city walls, while at least another 500 were seriously wounded. Between 600 and 700 Chinese-owned houses were raided and burned. Historian Vermeulen gives a figure of 600 survivors, while the Indonesian scholar A.R.T. Kemasang estimates that 3,000 Chinese survived.The Indonesian historian Benny G. Setiono notes that 500 prisoners and hospital patients were killed, and a total of 3,431 people survived. The massacre was followed by an “open season” against the ethnic Chinese throughout Java, causing another massacre in 1741 in Semarang, and others later in Surabaya and Gresik.
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