Cashier at Indonesian restaurant resigns after allegedly writing ‘Chinese’ to describe customer on takeout bill

A restaurant bill containing the Indonesian word for “Chinese” where the customer’s name should be. Photo: Twitter
A restaurant bill containing the Indonesian word for “Chinese” where the customer’s name should be. Photo: Twitter

A restaurant in the West Java capital of Bandung was embroiled in a racism controversy after its cashier allegedly used a discriminatory term to describe a customer.

On Saturday, a photo of a takeaway bill from the Ponyo Malabar restaurant went viral online as it contained the word “cina” where the customer’s name should be. The word literally means “Chinese” but can also be used in a derogatory manner against the oft-discriminated against Indonesian-Chinese community.

Speaking to the media following the controversy, a representative of the restaurant said they apologized but placed the blame solely on the cashier who rang up the bill, who has been identified by his initial P.

“[We write the names of customers in the bill] as a form of respect to our customers. For example, we can write ‘Ibu Susi’ so it’s more friendly. It turned out that our employee did not carry out that procedure,” Ponyo Malabar HR officer Aldi told Detik yesterday.

“Our management apologized directly to the customer. Thank god, they accepted and did not press charges.”

Aldi said that the restaurant gave a warning to P, but the cashier chose to resign out of shame. He said P did not tell his former employers why he wrote “cina” in the bill.

“I don’t know why he wrote that. Maybe he didn’t realize [how racist it was]. He wrote as he pleased,” he said.

Indonesia’s Chinese community, which account for 1.2% of the total population according to the 2010 census, is often a target of discrimination in the archipelago nation. Anti-Chinese sentiment reached its peak in 1998 when wealthy Chinese business owners were blamed for the country’s economic crisis, culminating in violent riots which saw Chinese property and businesses targeted and over 100 women sexually assaulted.


In 1967, under the New Order regime, President Soeharto banned the politically correct words Tiongkok and Tionghoa to describe Indonesians of Chinese descent, only allowing them to be referred to by the derogatory term Cina. In 2014, President Soesilo Bambang Yudhoyono reversed the decades-old racist policy.

Related: NU calls for end to the use of the word ‘kafir’ to refer to non-Muslim Indonesians

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