What the heck


August 12, 2022

Phoa Keng Hek (Chinese: ; pinyin: Pān Jǐnghè; born in Buitenzorg, Dutch East Indies 21, September, 1857– died in Batavia, Dutch East Indies 19, July, 1937) was a Chinese Indonesian businessman and the first president of Tiong Hoa Hwe Koan, a a system of schools and social organizations aimed at improving the position of the Chinese in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). He served from its founding in 1900 to 1923.


Phoa was born in Buitenzorg (now Bogor), the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), in 1857 to an influential peranakan Chinese father named Phoa Tjeng Tjoan. Phoa's first formal education was in a school run by ethnic Chinese, but after Sierk Coolsma opened a missionary school in Bogor On May 31, 1869, Phoa entered the first of ten classes. Among his friends was Lie Kim Hok who would later become known as a writer. At this school Phoa also studied Dutch. Although the school was aimed at converting people to Christianity, Phoa persisted in Confucianism. After graduation, Phoa married the daughter of a Chinese lieutenant in Batavia (now Jakarta), the capital of the Dutch East Indies, and he moved there with his wife. The two have a daughter, Tji Nio, who later married Khouw Kim An. Phoa was known to be very outspoken and was soon seen as the leader of the ethnic Chinese in Batavia. By mastering the Dutch language spoken by the colonial troops, Phoa was able to interact easily outside the Chinese and indigenous communities. In 1900, Phoa, along with his old friend Lie, became founding members of the Tiong Hoa Hwe Koan (THHK) school system and organization. He served as president of THHK for 23 years before retiring, promoting ethnic Chinese rights and the use of Chinese and English among the Chinese community. In 1907, Phoa – under the pseudonym "Hoa Djien" ("A Chinese") - sent a series of letters to the editor of the daily Perniagaan criticizing the Dutch colonial government and its policies towards ethnic Chinese. He wrote that the Dutch East Indies offered few opportunities for ethnic Chinese who had to explore the world. He wrote, "if they are literate in Chinese and English, they can go for two or three days (Java-Singapore) to the wider world where they can move freely." Outside of THHK, Phoa is an active landlord. He bought land in Bekasi, southeast of Batavia, and in 1903 succeeded in banning gambling in that area. Like his father, Phoa sells farm produce. He owned a granary and a tea factory. Phoa was awarded a Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau in 1937. He died in Batavia on 19 July 1937 and was buried in a large procession at the Petamburan TPU on 25 July.


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