The Life of Yap Thiam Hien, Indonesian Human Rights Lawyer
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: University of Washington Press
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Scholars who write biographies typically write their own introductions, explaining to the anticipated reader why the subject of their work is an unusually interesting and historically important human being. Very often they define the kind of biography they have planned—say, political, literary, or scientific—and discuss the sources they have turned up and the unavoidable ...
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Ask just about anyone who knew Yap Thiam Hien and you will soon be told that what accounted for his character is that he was from Aceh. Indonesia's ethnic variety makes for this kind of easy stereotyping: Javanese are soft-spoken, subtle, manipulative, sophisticated masters of compromise; Minang-kabau from West Sumatra, businesslike traders; north Sumatran Bataks, ...
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At puberty Thiam Hien was confident, bright, and ambitious. Family status had made it possible for him to begin his education in the ELS (Europese Lagere School or European Primary School) (fig. 2.1). His command of Dutch was apparently quite good, and he proved to be a quick study. He had done well in the ELS, and thus could move on. The next step was MULO (Meer ...
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Family circumstances had begun to change by the time Thiam Hien returned to Batavia in 1938. His brother Bong had graduated from the AMS Yogya in 1936, a bit surly and resentful of Thiam Hien, who could not send him money during his final year. It had been a miserable year for Thiam Bong. No less proud than his brother, he had had to accept the charity of the Jopps ...
Four. From Sukabumi to Leiden
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The decade of the 1940s was packed, like a Balinese painting, with a thousand commotions. In Indonesia, as elsewhere, World War II divided history. Japanese military forces swept the Dutch defenses aside contemptuously, shattered the myths on which colonial authority depended, and effectively ended the colonial era, though not its substantial residue. After Japan's surrender ...
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Yap Thiam Hien returned to Jakarta bent on structuring a new stage in life, and life accommodated him with a few surprises of its own.1 It was not the best of times. The revolution was still on, though the fighting was desultory and far from Jakarta. Thiam Hien was sympathetic to the Republic of Indonesia but had no connection with the events surrounding it. What he ...
Six. Hazardous Waters
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From the time of Yap Thiam Hien's return to Jakarta until the mid-1960s, the two passions that most absorbed his energy were the church and peranakan politics. His church work lent him enough prominence to represent Protestant interests politically, although only in ethnic Chinese circles. Unlike several others in the Chinese community, including his law partner Tan Po ...
Seven. At Sea in Peranakan Politics
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The title of this chapter has a double meaning, connoting in part a political journey but also Yap's bewilderment along the way. His involvement in Baperki lasted about seven years, from early 1954 through late 1960, a period of intense learning, conflict, and testing of his own character. ...
Eight. The Baperki Wars
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A less determined or less principled man, or a more sensible one, might have fled the ordeals Yap faced one after another in 1959 and 1960. But he seemed to thrive on them. It was an astonishing period for the energy he expended on lost causes. Only in his church did he and other ecumenists enjoy some success in creating a unified synod for the three provincial Chinese ...
Nine. Out of the Ethnic Cage
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If in his heart of hearts a Chinese peranakan wants to join his fate with that of Indonesians in this land of Indonesia, then he too must be considered a true Indonesian." So said Liem Koen Hian in 1934.1 In his packed decade of the 1950s, Yap had first engaged, not altogether comfortably, as a Chinese. The 1960s liberated him to become at ease as an Indonesian. For peranakan men ...
Ten. Into New Order Indonesia
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On the morning of 1 October 1965, two months after he and Abidin had finished their defense of Liem Koe Nio in Surabaya, Yap drove as usual to his office on Jl. Gajah Mada. He noticed that it was unusually quiet for Jakarta, but thought little of it. Only after he arrived at the office did he learn of the violent events of the previous night. The attempted coup that had occurred ...
Eleven. Early New Order Battlefields
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Far from withdrawing into a comfortable law practice after the Subandrio trial, Yap did precisely the opposite, leaping into—better yet, doing his bit to generate—crisis upon crisis. If anything is clear from the pattern of his activities from then on, it is that he saw himself as a public man, a responsible citizen, entitled and obliged to engage. Others began to see him as something ...
Twelve. Reform Frontiers
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Nineteen-sixty-eight was a stunning year for Yap, filled with baptisms of fire and personal confirmations. Surrounded by controversy and official animosity, enjoying public adulation and international recognition, he had become a symbol of the reform movement, such as it was. In Indonesia, especially Java, where personal status is a powerful stimulant usually taken for ...
Thirteen. Law as Politics: A Sidetrip to Detention
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The essential patterns of New Order politics, conflict, and debate were established during the years from 1967 through early 1974.1 Once it was clear that the army leadership had no intention of sharing authority with, or even paying much attention to, its political allies of the immediate post-coup period, the students, intellectuals, and Islamic groups that had hoped ...
Epilogue: A Steady Course
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Dan Lev's manuscript ends with the first weeks of 1975. He had planned to write another chapter, so chapter 13 is an accidental conclusion. However, it is a sufficient one. By 1975 Yap Thiam Hien had traveled through all the stations necessary to reach his destined professional and moral home. He had moved through wider and wider arenas, from the implicit Chinese ghetto ...
Postscript: New Order Landmark Cases
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Dan Lev planned a final chapter in which he would discuss important cases handled by Yap Thiam Hien in the years following 1974. He listed cases for inclusion, the files for many of which we found in the basement of Lev's Seattle home. The case files rarely include the briefs in which Yap set out his arguments and there is not a single court decision. (Lev himself had noted how ...
Appendix: Defense Summation in Asep Suryaman Trial, August 13, 1975
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Had he written these acknowledgments, I know that Dan would have, first and foremost, thanked those friends and colleagues in Indonesia with whom he spent countless hours recollecting, analyzing, arguing, and laughing. Together, they caught shifting and sometimes elusive personal memories and firmed them into a history of the Republic of Indonesia's first quarter-century. ...
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Publication Year: 2011