Ten Reasons Why Bukit China in Malacca should be preserved as a national heritage for all Malaysians

Press Conference Statement by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, in Penang on Wednesday, 1.8.1984 at 12 noon

Ten Reasons Why Bukit China in Malacca should be preserved as a national heritage for all Malaysians

I am calling this press conference to announce the formation of the Penang DAP State Savo Bukit China Committee, and to urge the people of Penang to join in the national movement to save Bukit China in Malacca.

Outside Malacca state, many still regard the Bukit China issue as a Malacca issue, of no relevance to people outside the Malacca state. Nothing could be more wrong, for the survival of Bukit China will also decide the fate and future of the Chinese, not only in Malacca, but in the whole of Malaysia.

The proposal of the Malacca State Government to demolish the 500-year-old religious, cultural and historid monument of Bukit China threatens to chop off not only the cultural roots of the Chinese in Malaysia, but wipe out the history of Chinese contribution to Malaysian nation-building.

I will give ten reasons as to why the Malacca State Government’s plan to level and develop Bukit China – the largest cemetry of the Chinese outside China – and use the earth for land reclamation and to turn it into a housing and commercial centre, must be opposed by all Malaysians, in particular the Chinese in Malacca and outside the state in the country.

1. Bukit China in Malacca is a national heritage of all Malaysians, regardless of race or religious. It symbolises the first Sino-Malay friendship and co-operation dating back to the 15th century as recorded in the Malay Annals – Sejarah Melayu – in the union of Sultan Mansur Shah of Malacca and the Ming princess Hang Li-po;

2. Bukit China symbolises the contribution of the Chinese to Malaysian nation building. There are those who question the loyalty and contribution of Malaysians to the country. These people of Bukit China, which has 12,500 graves, represent the blood, sweat and tears of Chinese in the making of present-day Malaysia. The demolition Bukit China would mean the wiping out of Chinese contribution to Malaysian nation building.

3. Bukit China represents the roots of the Chinese in Malaysia. The levelling of Bukit China would tantamount to the chopping of the cultural roots of the Chinese in Malaysia.

4. Bukit China is a community trust property, which was given statutory basis by the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple (Incorporation) Ordinance 1949 to dedicate the use of Bukit China for the promotion, propagation and observance of the doctrines, ceremonies, rites and customs of the Buddhist and other religious of the Chinese community. Any state Government move to exhume the 12500 graves, resite them, level Bukit China, would tantamount to a gross violation of the constitutional guarantee for religious freedom in Malaysia.

5. If Bukit China, with its 500 year-old-history could not be preserved, then all the cemetries in all the towns and new villagers are in danger of being exhumed as well! In fact, there would hot be an inch of land in Malaysia that would be safe government encroachment.

6. Bukit China is a test of the racial tolerance and multi-racial attitudes of Malaysians, as to whether there is mutual respect among the races for the rights, sensitivities and grievances for all communities. The Chinese community does not pressurise Malay Reserve Land to be developed, or have such land developed by the Chinese. Similarly, Bukit China – which is a community trust property handed down by the ancestors –is somewhat like Chinese Reserve Land and no other race or even the government has the right to attempt to deprive the Chinese community of its ownership right over Bukit China.

7. The forcible levelling of Bukit China in Malacca would aggravate racial polarisation in the rest of the 1980s and the 1990s. For the sake of national unity and to reduce racial polarisation, the Malacca State Government must abandon its plan to forcibly level and develop Bukit China in utter defiance of the opposition of the Chinese community.

8. The Bukit China issue would also be a test as to whether the Government, which claims to be a government based on the consent of the people, is prepared to heed the views and aspirations of the people. If the government rides roughshod over the objections of the people over the levelling of Bukit China, then democracy in Malaysia is still sorely lacking in substance, spirit and practice.

9. The State Government’s argument for the levelling of Bukit China does not hold water, for the development of a state does not mean that its history, culture and roots should be destroyed. In any event, although Malacca is a small state, there are still adequate land for development. The Government’s ‘development’ argument therefore is just a red herring.

10. Finally, if the 500-year-old monument of Bukit China about the religious, cultural and historic contribution of the Chinese to Malaysia could be wiped out in the name of ‘development’, then there is no check on the abuses and misuses of power by the State Government.

The future of survival or destruction of Bukit China would have a great bearing on the position of the Chinese in Malaysia.

Every Malaysian, in particular the Chinese, should adopt the saving of Bukit China as his or her personal cause.

If Bukit China of Malaysia goes, then there is nothing we can be safe or sure about. For this reason, I call on the people of Penang to give their full support.

The DAP has planned a series of activities to save Bukit China by raising public consciousness. The DAP would launch a mass signature campaign to save Bukit China, sell T-shirts bearing the wording ‘Save Bukit China as a national heritage’, and a series of poster campaigns.

If for instance, every concerned Malaysian about the survival of Bukit China decide to wear the ‘Save Bukit China’ T-shirt, this would represent a powerful political force and pressure if this is nation-wide.

The people must stand up for their rights, before it is too late.