Three Men at the Gates of Independence
IN their own way, each man helped deliver Indonesia to its independence. Liem Koen Hian and Yap Tjwan Bing joined a committee tasked with preparing for independence and the foundations of this country. Meanwhile, Djiauw Kie Song—a farmer in Rengasdengklok, West Java—hosted Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta when they were ‘kidnapped’ by young people one day before the Proclamation. But the future is not as the men imagined. After Indonesia’s independence, Liem and Yap fell victim to its own nation and Djiauw’s home in Rengasdengklok is no longer given certain privileges.
LIEM Koen Hian was indeed an irony. He died without an Indonesian citizenship, a privilege that he fiercely fought for. Politics, an area that preoccupied him besides journalism, had broken his heart.
Sixteen years before Indonesia’s independence, Liem introduced the idea of Indonesierschap, or an Indonesian national identity. He criticized local-born ethnic Chinese in the Dutch East Indies whose allegiance was with China. To Liem, Indone...