Chinese targeted by Jakarta rioters

Much of the most recent violence in Indonesia has been targeted at the Chinese community. Chinese-owned shops in north and west Jakarta were looted and set ablaze on Wednesday night.

Reports have confirmed that nine people were killed when a bar was set on fire overnight in the city's Chinese quarter. In the burnt-out building, bodies were charred beyond recognition.

In a bid to escape the violence many ethnic Chinese have boarded flights to Batam, an Indonesian resort island near Singapore.

Correspondents say that Indonesians are venting frustration with the current economic situation on Chinese communities.

Chinese people make up a tiny fraction of Indonesia's population but dominate commerce and industry.

Underlying racial tension
The disproportionate wealth of the Chinese community has long been resented by other citizens, and they are frequent scapegoats in tough times.

Though born in Indonesia, they are often regarded as being loyal more to their ancestral land than their native country.

In March, the Indonesian island of Java was the scene of violence against the local Chinese population.

The racial element was highlighted by the attempts of non-ethnic Chinese shop owners to defend their property by putting up signs saying, "Belonging to an Indonesian".

Memories are strong of the near genocidal killings of the 1960s, when hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered.

The violence then was nominally directed against suspected communists, but many ethnic Chinese were targeted because of their economic power.