Chinese Indons mark CNY in sombre mood

JAKARTA: Indonesians of Chinese origin will mark the Lunar New Year in a sombre mood after the Asian tsunami disaster cast a shadow over the ethnic minority's newly regained freedom to express its cultural identity. 

The Chinese-Indonesian Association (INTI) has issued a circular urging community members, who make up only around 3% of the 215 million people in the world's largest Muslim populated nation, to tone down celebrations. 

“With the tsunami tragedy, we have asked the Chinese community to hold only simple celebrations at home,” INTI chairman Benny Setiono said. 

“It's an important occasion for us but we mustn't make a big fuss because it will spark accusations that the Chinese don't care about what had happened to this country.” 

Chinese Indonesians were only allowed to openly celebrate the Chinese New Year, locally known as Imlek, in 2000 as part of reforms following the downfall of autocratic president Suharto in 1998.  

Imlek was declared a public holiday only two years ago. 

Ahead of this week's celebrations, the Supreme Council of Confucian Religion cancelled plans for festivities in temples, telling members to instead pray for the Indonesians killed by the tsunami. – AFP  

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