Asia Minute: Indonesian Students Protest Lawmakers

Sep 25, 2019

Thousands of people have been protesting against the government in one of Asia’s largest cities this week. These demonstrations are not in Hong Kong, but in the capital city of Indonesia. 

Protesters in Jakarta have been throwing rocks at their Parliament building this week — and burning tires — opposing one measure lawmakers just passed and another one under consideration.

Late last week, Parliament approved a bill that reduces the authority of a government body created to fight corruption.

Reform was one of the campaign promises during the recent reelection campaign of President Joko Widodo —and the Corruption Eradication Commission has been an effective tool.

A non-governmental organization called “Indonesia Corruption Watch” said lawmakers moved to weaken the commission after it accused 23 sitting members of Parliament of being corrupt.

A second measure would revise Indonesia’s criminal code — and among other changes it would impose prison sentences for sex before marriage as well as abortion and it would make it a crime to insult the president.

Human Rights Watch calls the proposed changes “disastrous not only for women and religious and gender minorities, but for all Indonesians.”

Voting on the changes has been delayed, but activists worry the issue will return.

The protests have been led by students — who have rallied behind social protests in the past — including those that took down the rule of former President Suharto more than 20 years ago.

The demonstrations have also moved beyond the capital to other major Indonesian cities — from Bandung to Yogyakarta and Medan.