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Thousands Protest Indonesian Bills That Limit Rights and Ban Extramarital Sex

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  • Tens of thousands of people have been protesting in Indonesia for the last few weeks over a number of proposed and existing laws.
  • One of the proposed laws is a massive penal code overhaul that, among other things, would outlaw sex outside of marriage and limit freedom of speech. 
  • Another law that has already been passed rolls back powers given to the country’s main anti-corruption body.
  • Demonstrators all over the country have clashed violently with police who have fired tear gas and water cannons at them, resulting in hundreds of injuries, arrests, and at least three civilian deaths.

Indonesian Protests Over Legislation

Thousands demonstrated outside the Indonesian Parliament Monday to protest against legislation that would undermine anti-corruption efforts and personal freedoms, among other measures.

Student-led protests have continued over the past few weeks, with Indonesians holding massive demonstrations all throughout the country.

Some of the activist’s main concerns center around two controversial pieces of legislation in particular.

The first bill, which has already been passed by Parliament, is intended to limit the power of the country’s main anti-corruption body, the Corruption Eradication Commission.

Protestors have called on Indonesian President Joko Widodo to reverse parliament’s decision, but he has largely balked at the idea.

The second bill, which has not yet been passed, is the more significant of the two. That bill would put in place an entirely new penal code, which, among other things, would criminalize both gay and premarital sex, as well significantly limit freedom of speech.

That new penal code received so much public outcry that Widodo announced last week that he would be delaying the bill until a new parliament was sworn in. Parliament on Monday agreed to push the vote on the penal code until their next session.

That decision is not at all a significant win for the protestors, because the new parliament is going to be sworn-in on Tuesday, meaning the lawmakers just pushed the bill to the next day.

However, because the penal code has not yet been passed, the protestors are calling for the bill to be withdrawn entirely.

Ongoing Protests

Last week, it was reported that tens of thousands of protestors took to the streets all over the country.

In the Indonesian capital Jakarta, demonstrators reportedly pulled down fencing, blocked traffic, and torched a police outpost. Police forces responded by firing tear gas and water cannons at demonstrators.

According to reports, hundreds of people were arrested and hundreds more were injured. A total of three deaths have been reported since the protests started.

Two of those killed were student protestors on one island, one who died after being shot, and the other after suffering severe head injuries.

Amid a new wave of protests Monday, more than 20,000 police and military personnel were deployed to maintain the protestors just in Jakarta.

Local police claimed that crowds refused to disperse and threw rocks, bottles, and fireworks at officers, who in turn responded by again firing tear gas at protestors.

Some experts have described the recent protests as the largest demonstrations in Indonesia in more than 20 years.

The last time the country saw demonstrations of this size was in 1998 when mass protests calling for the establishment of a democratic society caused an Indonesian dictator who had ruled for 32 years to step down.

Protestors Expand Demands

With the new parliament expected to be sworn in tomorrow, it’s safe to assume that these protests will continue.

Especially as the new parliament, which has a similar political composition to the last one, will likely take up the debate on the penal code, as well as other controversial bills.

The new penal code has been supported by conservative Islamic groups and lawmakers hoping to increase the number of sharia-like laws and legal systems in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.

Opponents of the law, however, have said the new penal code represents part of a dangerous shift towards deeper religiosity and conservative Islamic policies in a country that has long had the reputation as a democracy with relatively moderate Muslims and Islamic legal systems.

Outside the proposed penal code, protestors have recently expanded their list of demands to include a number of other things, such as ending the man-made forest fires in Indonesia’s rainforest, which have reportedly created respiratory problems for nearly a million people.

The protestors also want the corporations who have started the fires to clear land for planting lucrative palm oil plantations to be held accountable.

Similarly, they are calling for lawmakers to withdraw proposed legislation that would give corporations greater power over natural resources.

Notably, the protestors are additionally calling for the government to stop military action in the province of Papua, where at least 32 people were killed last week in anti-government protests.

The demonstrators have also broadly called for wider democratic reforms, such as the freeing of political prisoners.

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (The New York Times) (Voice of America)

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Police Arrest Hong Kong Man for Booing Chinese National Anthem

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The man’s boos were launched during the first time the Chinese national anthem had ever been played for a Hong Kong athlete at the Olympics.


Instulting the Anthem

Hong Kong authorities announced Friday that a man was arrested for allegedly booing and “insulting” the Chinese national anthem while watching the Olympics on Monday.

The unnamed 40-year-old, who identified himself as a journalist, was allegedly watching the Olympics fencing medal ceremony for Hong Konger Edgar Cheung at a local mall. When the anthem began playing, he allegedly began booing and chanted “We are Hong Kong!” while waving a British Hong Kong Colonial flag.

The man’s actions were particularly noteworthy because it was the first time the Chinese national anthem had been played for a Hong Kong athlete in the Olympics. Hong Kongers compete at the Games under a separate committee called Hong Kong, China. The last time a Hong Konger won gold was in 1996 for windsurfing, at which time the British anthem of “God Save the Queen” was played.

Concerns for Freedom of Speech

The man is suspected of breaking the relatively new National Anthem Ordinance, which was passed in June 2020, and has a penalty of up to three years in prison and fines of $6,000 for anyone who publicly and intentionally insults the anthem. The law mirrors one in mainland China, but it has faced considerable scrutiny from increasingly persecuted pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong.

They argue that it tramples the right to free speech, which is supposed to be enshrined in the city’s Basic Law. Hong Kong police, however, say that’s not the case and claim that his actions breach common restraints on freedom of speech. Senior Superintendent Eileen Chung said that his actions were “to stir up the hostility of those on the scene and to politicize the sport.”

Police issued a warning that it would investigate reports of others joining his chants or violating the separate National Security law passed last year.

This incident isn’t the only case of alleged politicization of the Games. Badminton player Angus Ng was accused by a pro-Beijing lawmaker of making a statement by sporting a black jersey with the territory’s emblem. The imagery was very similar to the black-and-white Hong Kong flag used by anti-government protesters.

Ng countered that he wore his own clothes to the event because he didn’t have sponsorships to provide jerseys and he wasn’t authorized to print the emblem on a jersey himself.

See what others are saying: (Inside) (Al Jazeera) (CNN)

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Canadian Catholic Priest Says Residential Schools Survivors Lied About Abuse

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The Roman Catholic Church is facing considerable backlash across Canada for its treatment of indigenous peoples in the residential school system, along with its subsequent efforts to downplay the problem.


Priest Sparks Outrage

Father Rheal Forest was put on forced leave Wednesday following remarks he made over a weeks-long period starting July 10 in which he doubted victims of the country’s infamous residential school system.

Residential schools were a system of schools largely for indigenous children that were mostly run by the Catholic Church with federal government funding. The schools were notoriously cruel and long faced allegations that children had been abused or went missing under their care.

To date, over 1,300 unmarked graves have been found at four former residential schools across Canada, a fraction of the over 130 that used to exist.

Forest, of the St. Boniface archdiocese in Winnipeg, was standing in for a couple of weeks while the main priest at his church was away. During that time, Forest told parishioners that victims of the residential schools, particularly those sexually abused, had lied.

“If [the victims] wanted extra money, from the money that was given to them, they had to lie sometimes — lie that they were abused sexually and, oop, another $50,000,” he said.

“It’s kind of hard if you’re poor not to lie.”

In that same sermon, he also added that during his time with Inuit groups in the north of the country, most had allegedly said they appreciated the residential school system. Instead, he said they blamed any abuses on lay people working at the facilities rather than priests or nuns.

Forest’s comments drew a ton of backlash, prompting the archdiocese to place Forest on leave. A spokesperson for the archdiocese said that the institution “completely disavow” Forest’s comments, adding, “We very much regret the pain they may have caused to many people, not least of course Indigenous people and, more specifically, survivors of the Residential School system.”

Overall, the archdiocese has attempted to apologize to indigenous communities for its part in the residential school system, with Archbishop Albert Legatt saying in a video that the way forward was by “acknowledging, apologizing, and acting” on terms set by indigenous groups.

Church Allegedly Kept Money From Victims

Forest’s views and subsequent dismissal aren’t the only public relations scandal the Roman Catholic Church faces in Canada.

According to documents obtained by CBC News, the Church spent over a decade avoiding paying out money to survivors per a 2005 agreement. At the time, it, alongside the protestant churches that also ran some residential schools, agreed to pay an amount to victims of the schools in the tens of millions.

Instead, according to an internal summary of 2015 court documents, the Catholic Church spent much of that money on lawyers, administration, a private fundraising company, and unapproved loans. It seems that some of this was technically legal, such as a promise to give tens of millions back via “in-kind” services; however, there was no audit completed to confirm that these services actually happened or to prove the alleged value of the services. This led to doubts about whether or not they were done effectively.

The Catholic Church was unique among the signatory churches in the 2005 agreement with its efforts to avoid paying victims. All of the other denominations paid out their sums many years before without issues.

While priests such as Father Forest have supported the Church, there has been internal backlash. Father André Poilièvre, a Saskatoon priest and Order of Canada recipient, said the Church’s actions are “scandalous” and “really shameful,” adding, “It was a loophole. It might be legal, but it’s not ethical.”

With these latest revelations, widespread anger at the Church has triggered allegations that indigenous groups are behind a spree of church burnings across the country.

The entire situation is likely going to continue to smolder as a government commission set up to investigate the schools estimates there will be thousands of more unmarked graves found across Canada.

See what others are saying: (CBC News) (The Guardian) (CTV News)

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Tokyo Sets Back-to-Back Records for Number of Daily COVID-19 Cases

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Some positive cases were detected among people attending the Olympic Games, including a handful of athletes.


Cases Going Up

The Tokyo Olympic Games found itself in more controversy on Wednesday after Tokyo experienced a record number of daily COVID-19 cases for the second day in a row.

On Tuesday, the city recorded 2,848 new cases of the virus, passing the 2,500 daily new case threshold for the first time since the pandemic began. Then on Wednesday, it shattered the record again with 3,177 new COVID-19 cases.

At least 155 of those new cases were detected among people attending the Games, including a handful of athletes, which contrasts Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide’s promise that the Olympics wouldn’t be hit with the virus. The spike in new cases has largely been attributed to the delta-variant, something that many countries are dealing with around the world.

Nishimura Yasutoshi, a Japanese economic minister, told a parliamentary panel this week that COVID-19 cases are expected to continue rising for at least a few days. He also explained that many people may have delayed getting tested last week due to holidays, therefore inflating total daily new case numbers.

Governors in prefectures around Tokyo have moved to ask the government for states-of-emergency, which Tokyo is already under.

Doubts About Government Response

The prime minister said in a press conference on Tuesday that “the government has secured a new drug that reduces the risk of serious illness by 70 percent,” adding, “we have confirmed that this drug will be used thoroughly from now on.”

However, he never actually mentioned what drug he was referencing.

“In any case, under these circumstances, I would like to ask the people to avoid going out unnecessarily and to watch the Olympics and Paralympics on TV,” Suga continued.

He also stressed that canceling the Olympics amid the outbreak was completely out of the question, although there have been continued calls from the public and opposition lawmakers for just that.

Beyond refusing to cancel the Games, Suga is facing backlash for refusing to enact strict state-of-emergency protocols. Currently, the measures in Tokyo are almost all voluntary and consist of asking people to stay home, along with requesting restaurants that serve alcohol to completely close and telling all others to shut down by 8 p.m.

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (NPR) (The Wall Street Journal)

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