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Me, second from left in the third row, and my classmates in junior high school (Photo provided by company)
My Personal History

Supporting Indonesia's pro-independence guerrillas: Mochtar Riady's story (7)

After a brush with danger, I went to study in Nanjing with the help of a general

On Aug. 15, 1945, Japan surrendered unconditionally to the Allies.

In Malang, where I lived, junior high school classes were resumed and I started attending them.

My father, who had been detained by the Japanese army, was released and returned home. But afterward he was always afraid. He was particularly terrified by the sound of motorbikes and would instantly run away whenever he heard one. He had heard the sound of motorbikes when the Japanese army came to take him away.

I took my father to Singapore and we stayed there for a while. The change of environment apparently did him good, and his fear gradually faded.

After Japan's surrender, Sukarno, the leader of the Indonesian independence movement, declared Indonesia's independence as a republic on Aug. 17. But the Dutch colonialists refused to acknowledge Indonesian independence.

First, British troops landed in Surabaya and other areas of Java to disarm the Japanese army. Then, Dutch forces landed across the country to regain the ground they had lost.

Indonesian residents rose up in revolt and started fighting both the British and the Dutch. The Indonesian fighters mainly staged guerrilla warfare in the mountainous areas from Surabaya to Malang.

Influenced by the views of the principal of my primary school, I viewed colonialism as an evil that undermined equality among humans and created gaps between rich and poor.

As I was young and vigorous, I began supporting Indonesia's pro-independence guerrillas.

A man in his 30s called Imam Soekarto led the guerrillas operating in areas around Malang. Despite our large age difference, the two of us hit it off. I helped his fight by buying medical supplies in Surabaya and bringing them to fighters in the mountains. I also reported the locations of Dutch troops to Soekarto's forces.

The Dutch adopted a "divide-and-conquer" strategy of setting up puppet states in Indonesia.

Siauw Giok Tjhan, a Chinese Indonesian activist who later served as a cabinet minister in the government of the republic, called on ethnic Chinese students to organize demonstrations against the Dutch.

While the older generations of ethnic Chinese who had migrated from China to Indonesia generally distanced themselves from politics, younger Chinese born in Indonesia were keen to get involved in political activities.

The anti-Dutch student movement attracted many young ethnic Chinese. I joined the movement immediately.

The Dutch arrested students who took part in the movement and sent them to a jail in Malang. I was among those put on a wanted list and detained, but I was immediately released. The Dutch apparently thought I was not the student on their list.

My Chinese name, as pronounced in Mandarin, is Li Wenzheng. That matched the name on the Dutch wanted list, but on my ID card my name was written as Li Mo Di.

The pronunciation of my Chinese name in the Xinghua dialect, which our family spoke at home, was closer to Li Mong Ding. As a result, when my family had my birth registered, the Dutch official in charge wrote my name as Li Mo Di, which eventually became my Indonesian name of Riady.

I had barely escaped being jailed, but I was afraid that I could be arrested again if I remained in Indonesia. My great-uncle in Surabaya (a cousin of my grandfather, to be exact) introduced me to a merchant from Xinghua who was living in Shanghai at the time.

Counting on the merchant's support, I headed to Shanghai. I believe this was around the end of 1946.

The merchant introduced me to a general named Wu Heyun, who held a senior post in the Kuomintang government in Nanjing. Wu also came from Xinghua.

The general arranged for me to take the entrance exam of the National Central University in Nanjing. I applied to study Chinese philosophy because there was less competition for the department.

I passed the exam and began my life as a student in Nanjing.

 

Mochtar Riady is the founder of Lippo Group.

Click here to read Mochtar Riady's full "My personal history" series.

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