Police question community leader over banner rejecting construction of new cinema and containing call to ‘chase away the Chinese jerks’

A banner in East Jakarta calling for the public to reject the construction of a cinema and to chase away “Chinese jerks”. Photo: Twitter
A banner in East Jakarta calling for the public to reject the construction of a cinema and to chase away “Chinese jerks”. Photo: Twitter

The Jakarta Metro Police are questioning the leader of a hardline organization over a banner put up in East Jakarta that was disturbingly both racist and bigoted.

The banner, which was put up near a mosque in Cililitan, East Jakarta, called for the public to join a group named the Movement of Muslim Betawi Community Organizations (GOIB) in a protest planned today at 1pm to reject the construction of a planned XXI cinema near the house of worship. A line at the bottom of the banner reads, “Together we can chase away the Chinese jerks from Ciliitan.”

After a photo of the banner went viral, police were called into action but they have stopped short of arresting GOIB’s leader, Andy M. Shaleh.

“He was not arrested. We went to his home to ask him if he was indeed the one to put up the banner,” Jerry Siagian, who heads a Special Crimes Investigative Unit at the Jakarta Metro Police, told Detik yesterday.

“He confessed that he made [the banner] and he put it up himself.”

Despite Andy’s confession, police say they are going to investigate the case further before any arrests are made. It remains to be seen if GOIB will go ahead with its protest today.

Blasphemy is a crime in Indonesia, but vague wordings in its legislation has made it prone to be used as a political tool and to persecute religious minorities. Arguably the most infamous blasphemy conviction was given to former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian of Chinese descent, who was sentenced to two years in prison in 2017 simply for warning the public not to trust officials who quote the Quran to convince them not to vote for non-Muslim politicians.

Since Ahok’s case, application of the blasphemy law spiked dramatically in Indonesia, but the vast majority of charges and convictions under the law were used against members of minority religious faiths who allegedly blasphemed Islam, and rarely the other way around.

Indonesia’s Chinese community, which account for 1.2 percent of the total population according to the 2010 census, is also 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.

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