1740 Batavia massacre

Batavia massacre
Two black and white drawings of events during the massacre. At left, ethnic Chinese appear to kill Dutch soldiers while homes burn in the background. At right, the Dutch execute Chinese prisoners in a courtyard.
The execution of Chinese prisoners during the massacre
Date9–22 October 1740, with skirmishes continuing for a month afterwards
LocationBatavia, Dutch East Indies
Resulted inSee Aftermath
Parties to the civil conflict
Dutch East Indies troops, various native and slave groups
Lead figures
Kapitein Nie Hoe Kong
500 Dutch troops killed
>10,000 killed, >500 injured

The 1740 Batavia massacre (Dutch: Chinezenmoord, literally "Murder of the Chinese"; Indonesian: Geger Pacinan, meaning "Chinatown Tumult") was a pogrom in which Dutch East Indies soldiers and native collaborators killed ethnic Chinese residents of the port city of Batavia (present-day Jakarta) in the Dutch East Indies. The violence in the city lasted from 9 October 1740 until 22 October, with minor skirmishes outside the walls continuing late into November that year. Historians have estimated that at least 10,000 ethnic Chinese were massacred; just 600 to 3,000 are believed to have survived.

In September 1740, as unrest rose among the Chinese population, spurred by government repression and declining sugar prices, Governor-General Adriaan Valckenier declared that any uprising would be met with deadly force. On 7 October, hundreds of ethnic Chinese, many of them sugar mill workers, killed 50 Dutch soldiers, leading Dutch troops to confiscate all weapons from the Chinese populace and to place the Chinese under a curfew. Two days later, rumours of Chinese atrocities led other Batavian ethnic groups to burn Chinese houses along Besar River and Dutch soldiers to fire cannon at Chinese homes. The violence soon spread throughout Batavia, killing more Chinese. Although Valckenier declared an amnesty on 11 October, gangs of irregulars continued to hunt and kill Chinese until 22 October, when the governor-general called more forcefully for a cessation of hostilities. Outside the city walls, clashes continued between Dutch troops and rioting sugar mill workers. After several weeks of minor skirmishes, Dutch-led troops assaulted Chinese strongholds in sugar mills throughout the area.

The following year, attacks on ethnic Chinese throughout Java sparked the two-year Java War that pitted ethnic Chinese and Javanese forces against Dutch troops. Valckenier was later recalled to the Netherlands and charged with crimes related to the massacre. The massacre figures heavily in Dutch literature, and is also cited as a possible etymology for the names of several areas in Jakarta.


Adrian Valckenier, Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies, in a large white wig and regal clothing, holding a pipe-shaped object
Governor-General Valckenier ordered the killings of ethnic Chinese

During the early years of the Dutch colonisation of the East Indies (modern-day Indonesia), many people of Chinese descent were contracted as skilled artisans in the construction of Batavia on the northwestern coast of Java;[1] they also served as traders, sugar mill workers, and shopkeepers.[2] The economic boom, precipitated by trade between the East Indies and China via the port of Batavia, increased Chinese immigration to Java. The number of ethnic Chinese in Batavia grew rapidly, reaching a total of 10,000 by 1740. Thousands more lived outside the city walls.[3] The Dutch colonials required them to carry registration papers, and deported those who did not comply to China.[4]

The deportation policy was tightened during the 1730s, after an outbreak of malaria killed thousands, including the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies, Dirck van Cloon.[4][5] According to Indonesian historian Benny G. Setiono, the outbreak was followed by increased suspicion and resentment in native Indonesians and the Dutch toward the ethnic Chinese, who were growing in number and whose wealth was increasingly visible.[5] As a result, Commissioner of Native Affairs Roy Ferdinand, under orders of Governor-General Adriaan Valckenier, decreed on 25 July 1740 that Chinese considered suspicious would be deported to Ceylon (modern day Sri Lanka) and forced to harvest cinnamon.[5][6][7][8] Wealthy Chinese were extorted by corrupt Dutch officials who threatened them with deportation;[5][9][10] Stamford Raffles, a British explorer and historian of Java, noted in 1830 that in some Javanese accounts, the Dutch were told by the Dutch-appointed Chinese headman of Batavia, Nie Hoe Kong, Kapitein der Chinezen, to deport all Chinese wearing black or blue because these were thought to be poor.[11] There were also rumours that deportees were not taken to their destinations but were thrown overboard once out of sight of Java,[3][9] and in some accounts, they died when rioting on the ships.[11] The deportation of ethnic Chinese caused unrest among the remaining Chinese, leading many Chinese workers to desert their jobs.[3][9]

At the same time native occupants of Batavia, including the ethnic Betawi servants, became increasingly distrustful of the Chinese. Economic factors played a role: most natives were poor, and perceived the Chinese as occupying some of the most prosperous neighbourhoods in the city.[12][13] Although the Dutch historian A.N. Paasman notes that at the time the Chinese were the "Jews of Asia",[7] the actual situation was more complicated. Many poor Chinese living in the area around Batavia were sugar mill workers who felt exploited by the Dutch and Chinese elites equally.[14] Rich Chinese owned the mills and were involved in revenue farming and shipping; they drew income from milling and the distillation of arak, a molasses and rice-based alcoholic beverage.[14][15] However, the Dutch overlords set the price for sugar, which itself caused unrest.[16] Because of the decline of worldwide sugar prices that began in the 1720s caused by an increase in exports to Europe and competition from the West Indies,[17][18] the sugar industry in the East Indies had suffered considerably. By 1740, worldwide sugar prices had dropped to half the price in 1720. As sugar was a major export, this caused considerable financial difficulties for the colony.[19]

Initially some members of the Council of the Indies (Raad van Indië) believed that the Chinese would never attack Batavia,[9] and stronger measures to control the Chinese were blocked by a faction led by Valckenier's political opponent, the former governor of Zeylan Gustaaf Willem van Imhoff, who returned to Batavia in 1738.[20][21][22] Large numbers of Chinese arrived outside Batavia from nearby settlements, however, and on 26 September Valckenier called an emergency meeting of the council, during which he gave orders to respond to any ethnic Chinese uprisings with deadly force.[5] This policy continued to be opposed by van Imhoff's faction; Vermeulen (1938)[a] suggested that the tension between the two colonial factions played a role in the ensuing massacre.[6]

On the evening of 1 October Valckenier received reports that a crowd of a thousand Chinese had gathered outside the gate, angered by his statements at the emergency meeting five days earlier. This report was received incredulously by Valckenier and the council.[23] However, after the murder of a Balinese sergeant by the Chinese outside the walls, the council decided to take extraordinary measures and reinforce the guard.[6][24] Two groups of 50 Europeans and some native porters were sent to outposts on the south and east sides of the city,[25] and a plan of attack was formulated.[6][24]