DAP calls for the complete lifting of the ‘bamboo curtain’ to enable free travel between the people of Malaysia and China

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, at a DAP lunch in Penang on Saturday, July 6, 1985 at 1.30 pm during his two-day visit to Bukit Bendera parliamentary constituency.

DAP calls for the complete lifting of the ‘bamboo curtain’ to enable free travel between the people of Malaysia and China.

Recently, the Barisan Nasional government announced the lifting of restriction on travel by Malaysians to China, and by the way this government announcement was publicized, it would appear to be a major breakthrough in the full normalization of relations between Malaysia and the People’s Republic of China.

But a careful reading of the government announcement showed that it was no major
breakthrough, for all that the government has done is merely to lift the ban on
Malaysians below 30 years from going to China for business reasons.

Those who wish to go to China for trade economic reasons have still to get government
approval, and from past record, such approvals are not going to be easy to come by.
Every time there is Canton Trade Fair, there would be nation-wide complaints by traders
and businessmen of the unreasonable attitude of Pernas and Ministry of Trade and
Industry in rejecting their applications to attend the China fair.

Why should the government continue to impose restrictions on Malaysians from going
to China for economic reasons?

In fact, I want to ask the Barisan Nasional government to fully explain why there is a
need to put China in the list of countries which Malaysians cannot visit without special
permission, while other Communists countries like Soviet Union which maintains a
KGB network to subvert the loyalty of Malaysians could be visited freely by our people?

The DAP calls for the complete lifting of the ‘bamboo curtain’ to enable free travel
between the people of Malaysia and China, for we do not believe that the Barisan Nasional
government have any logical or rational reasons for imposing such a ban.

I am aware that there extremists in UMNO who doubt the loyalty of Malaysian Chinese
completely ignoring the fact that Malaysia’s development today is also the result of the
great contribution of the Chinese of generations past.

Those who doubt the loyalty of Malaysian Chinese, argue that if there is free travel for
Malaysian Chinese to China, they would be ‘brain-washed’ or indoctrinated in China
and would return as ‘fifth-columnists’ to subvert Malaysia’s sovereignty and integrity.

Such extremists thinking is a great libel on the Malaysian Chinese, and 28 years after
merdeka, must be stamped out from the thinking of all responsible Malaysian leaders.

If Malaysia is to succeed as a united, integrated Malaysian nation, then there must be
an immediate stop of any mutual suspicion about each other’s loyalty and Malaysian-ness
among the various races in the county, full of the other racial
groups in Malaysia, for otherwise, mistrust could only engender greater mistrust in deep national

I have another reason for calling for the complete lifting of the ‘bamboo curtain’ for Malaysians
to freely visit China.

I believe that the bann on free visit by Malaysians to China is self-defeating and short-sighted,
for such free visits would actually contribute to nation-building and the earlier realization of
Malaysian consciousness and identity in Malaysia.

The socio-economic and political conditions between Malaysia and the People’s Republic of
China are so vastly different, that Malaysian Chinese who visit china would return to Malaysia
more aware of their preference for Malaysian way of life, however much they dislike certain
political, economic and social aspects in our country.

When Tun Razak visited China in May 1974, and signed the Peking Communique with
Premier Chou En Lai, there was a clause in the communiqué which stated that people of
Chinese decent in Malaysia who are not Malaysian citizens could take up the nationality
of the People’s Republic of China.

At that time, there was some 300,000 red identity card holders, the stateless persons in Malaysia.
How many of them took up the nationality of PRC, so that they ceased to be stateless?
I do not have these figures, and I am asking the Minister of Home Affairs to tell the coming
parliamentary meeting on July 15 to say how many stateless people of Chinese decent in
Malaysia took up the offer of becoming nationals of People’s Republic of China as provided
by the Peking Communique in the last 11 years. But my guess is that those who took up
the offer and availed themselves of the opportunity to become PRC nationals so that
they could cease to be state-less people are virtually non-existent.

What does this demonstrate? It show that the people of Chinese decent – who for all practical
purposes are Malaysians, being born, bred, educated, find work and could die here, except
for the absence of legal citizenship papers – would prefer to suffer deprivations and hardships
of being stateless persons with red identity cards in Malaysia, instead of taking up the options
provided by the Peking Communique of 1974 to become PRC nationals.