- 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However, because the penal code has not yet been passed, the protestors are calling for the bill to be withdrawn entirely.
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)
Biden Vows to Defend Taiwan if Attacked by China
Some praised the remarks for clarifying U.S. foreign policy, while others feared they could escalate tensions with China.
Biden’s Remarks Create Confusion
During a Monday press conference in Tokyo, U.S. President Joe Biden said the United States would intervene to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.
The remark caught many off guard because it contradicted decades of traditional U.S. foreign policy toward China.
A reporter said, “You didn’t want to get involved in the Ukraine conflict militarily for obvious reasons. Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?”
“Yes,” Biden answered. “That’s a commitment we made. We are not — look, here’s the situation. We agree with a One China policy. We signed onto it and all the attendant agreements made from there.”
“But the idea that it can be taken by force — just taken by force — is just not appropriate,” he continued. “It will dislocate the entire region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine.”
Beijing considers the Taiwanese island to be a breakaway province, but Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, has claimed to represent the real historical lineage of China.
Since 1972, the U.S. has officially recognized only one China, with its capital in Beijing. However, Washington maintains extensive informal diplomatic ties with Taipei and provides military assistance through weapons and training.
Successive U.S. presidents have also committed to a policy of “strategic ambiguity,” refusing to promise or rule out a direct military intervention in case China attacks Taiwan.
The strategy is meant to deter China while avoiding a hard commitment to any action.
Biden Sparks Controversy
The White House quickly sent a statement to reporters appearing to walk back Biden’s remark.
“As the president said, our policy has not changed,” the statement said. “He reiterated our One China Policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. He also reiterated our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself.”
Monday was not the first time Biden made similar remarks regarding China and Taiwan.
Last August, he promised that “we would respond” if there was an attack against a fellow member of NATO and then added, “same with Japan, same with South Korea, same with Taiwan.”
In October, he again told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the U.S. would defend Taiwan from a Chinese attack, prompting the White House to hurriedly walk back his statement.
Monday’s remark was received with support as well as criticism.
“Strategic ambiguity is over. Strategic clarity is here,” Tweeted Matthew Kroenig, professor of government at Georgetown University. “This is the third time Biden has said this. Good. China should welcome this. Washington is helping Beijing to not miscalculate.”
“It is truly dangerous for the president to keep misstating U.S. policy toward Taiwan,” historian Stephen Wertheim wrote in a tweet. “How many more times will this happen?”
“The West’s robust response to Russian aggression in Ukraine could serve to deter China from invading Taiwan, but Biden’s statement risks undoing the potential benefit and instead helping to bring about a Taiwan conflict,” he added. “Self-injurious and entirely unforced.”
Biden also unveiled the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), a trade agreement signed by the U.S. and 12 Asian nations.
The agreement appeared to many like another move to cut off China from regional trade pacts and supply chains in Washington’s strategic competition with Beijing.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The New York Times) (The South China Morning Post)
Russia Takes Over 900 Azovstal Fighters Prisoner as Mariupol Surrenders
Ukraine said the soldiers successfully completed their mission, but the fall of Mariupol represents a strategic win for Putin.
Azovstal Waves the White Flag
Russia’s foreign ministry announced on Wednesday that it had captured 959 Ukrainians from the Azovstal steelworks, where besieged soldiers have maintained the last pocket of resistance in Mariupol for weeks.
A ministry spokesperson said in a statement that 51 were being treated for injuries, and the rest were sent to a former prison colony in the town of Olenivka in a Russian-controlled area of Donetsk.
The defense ministry released videos of what it claimed were Ukrainian fighters receiving care at a hospital in the Russian-controlled town of Novoazovsk. In one, a soldier tells the camera he is being treated “normally” and that he is not being psychologically pressured, though it is unclear whether he is speaking freely.
It was unclear if any Ukrainians remained in Azovstal, but Denis Pushilin, the head of the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk, said in a statement Wednesday that the “commanders of the highest level” were still hiding in the plant.
Previously, estimates put the number of soldiers inside Azovstal around 1,000.
Ukraine officially gave up Mariupol on Monday, when the first Azovstal fighters began surrendering.
Reuters filmed dozens of wounded Ukrainians being driven away in buses marked with the Russian pro-war “Z” symbol.
Ukraine’s deputy defense minister said in a Tuesday statement that the Ukrainian prisoners would be swapped in an exchange for captured Russians. But numerous Russian officials have signaled that the Ukrainian soldiers should be tried.
Mariupol Falls into Russian Hands
After nearly three months of bombardment that left Mariupol in ruins, Russia’s combat mission in the city has ended.
The sprawling complex of underground tunnels, caverns, and bunkers beneath Azovstal provided a defensible position for the Ukrainians there, and they came to represent the country’s resolve in the face of Russian aggression for many spectators.
Earlier this month, women, children, and the elderly were evacuated from the plant.
The definitive capture of Mariupol, a strategic port city, is a loss for Ukraine and a boon for Russia, which can now establish a land bridge between Crimea and parts of Eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian separatists. The development could also free up Russian troops around Mariupol to advance on the East, while additional reinforcements near Kharkiv descend from the north, potentially cutting off Ukrainian forces from the rest of the country.
The Ukrainian military has framed events in Mariupol as at least a partial success, arguing that the defenders of Azovstal completed their mission by tying down Russian troops and resources in the city and giving Ukrainians elsewhere more breathing room.
It claimed that doing so prevented Russia from rapidly capturing the city of Zaporizhzhia further to the west.
See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (BBC) (BBC)
Convoy of Up to 1,000 Vehicles Evacuates Refugees From Mariupol as Russian War Effort Stalls
Russia may have lost a third of its ground invasion force since the war began, according to British military intelligence.
Hundreds Make It Out Alive
A convoy of between 500 and 1,000 vehicles evacuating refugees from the southern port city of Mariupol arrived safely in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia on Saturday.
People have been trickling out of Mariupol for over two months, but the recent evacuation was the single biggest out of the city thus far. Russian troops, who control most of the city, did not allow the convoy to leave for days, but eventually, they relented.
The convoy first traveled to Berbyansky some 80 kilometers to the west, then stopped at other settlements before driving 200 kilometers northwest to Zaporizhzhia. Many refugees told reporters they took “secret detours” to avoid Russian checkpoints and feared every moment of the journey.
Nikolai Pavlov, a 74-year-old retiree, told Reuters he had lived in a basement for a month after his apartment was destroyed.
“We barely made it,” he said. “There were lots of elderly people among us… the trip was devastating. But it was worth it.”
63-year-old Iryna Petrenko also said she had stayed in Mariupol initially to take care of her 92-year-old mother, who subsequently died.
“We buried her next to her house, because there was nowhere to bury anyone,” she said.
Putin’s Plans Go Poorly
In Mariupol, Ukrainian fighters continue to hold the Azovstal steelworks, the only part of the city still under Ukrainian control.
On Sunday, a video emerged appearing to show a hail of projectiles bursting into white, brightly burning munitions over the factory.
The pro-Russian separatist who posted it on Telegram wrote, “If you didn’t know what it is and for what purpose – you could say that it’s even beautiful.”
Turkey is trying to negotiate an evacuation of wounded Ukrainians from the factory, but neither Russia nor Ukraine have agreed to any plan.
After nearly three months of war, Mariupol has been left in ruins, with thousands of civilians reportedly dead.
“In less than 3 month, Mariupol, one of Ukraine’s fastest developing & comfortable cities, was reduced into a heap of charred ruins smelling death, with thousands of people standing in long breadlines and selling their properties out to buy some food. Less than three months,” Illia Ponomarenko, a reporter for The Kyiv Independent, tweeted.
On Sunday, the United Kingdom’s defense ministry estimated that Russia has likely lost a third of its ground invasion forces since the war began.
Moscow is believed to have deployed as many as 150,000 troops in Ukraine.
The ministry added that Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine have “lost momentum” and are “significantly behind schedule.” Moreover, it said Russia failed to achieve substantial territorial gains over the last month while sustaining “consistently high levels of attrition.”
“Under the current conditions, Russia is unlikely to dramatically accelerate its rate of advance over the next 30 days,” the ministry concluded.
Sweden also signaled on Sunday that it will join Finland in applying for NATO membership.