Once again, Indonesia has found itself in the international spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Jakarta’s no-nonsense governor – an ethnic Chinese Christian and a rare exception in a sea of corrupt politicians – has been found guilty of “blasphemy” against Islam and jailed for the next two years.
I do not think the negative coverage thus far amounts to fear-mongering, nor is the global backlash entirely undeserved. I’ve watched with alarm over the past few months, as bigots and powerful opportunists have successfully manipulated large segments of the populace under the guise of religion, blending their agenda with a toxic cocktail of racism and hatred. Indonesia may have gained its hard-won independence seven decades ago, but we are now seeing a new form of colonialism: a colonialism of the mind, of thought, fueled by a virulent form of religious conservatism that favors practices and extreme ideology imported from Saudi Arabia.
A poem for Hong Kong, inspired by Maya Angelou’s “On the Pulse of Morning”. Read more
Just after midnight on April 29, eight convicted drug offenders faced an Indonesian firing squad. Two were Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the ringleaders of the heroin smuggling ring known as the ‘Bali Nine’. In the past year the international media has had widespread coverage of their successful rehabilitation and reform, and how they served and cared for their fellow inmates in Bali’s Kerobokan prison. Read more
“Hong Kong has never opened this road before.”
Speaking to a friend, the man was clearly astonished as we strolled down the middle of a nine-lane highway. Around me I saw many smiling faces, belonging to both young and old, and families with small children. All had yellow ribbons pinned to their chests. Read more
Tonight in Hong Kong, there is a sense that history is being made.
Many of you have seen or read about what is happening right here in my hometown. Yesterday brought scenes that I could never have imagined in this safe and stable city. We watched in horror at the footage of riot police, armed with rifles and donning Stormtrooper helmets, lobbing volleys of tear gas into crowds of unarmed protestors. Read more
I recently spent two weeks travelling in Indonesia during the run-up to yesterday’s presidential election. Never has one in Indonesia been so polarising, or so high-stakes, with an outcome that was almost too close to call. Joko Widodo (known as “Jokowi”), the populist grassroots politician, is the presumed winner by almost five percentage points, although his rival Prabowo Subianto has fought back with his own declaration of victory. Read more
One by one the candles were lit, a steady stream that ran across the six football pitches stretching the width of Victoria Park, spilling over into the nearby basketball courts and central lawn. For the first time I was attending Hong Kong’s annual vigil commemorating the Tiananmen massacre of June 4, 1989, in the middle of a crowd numbering over 180,000 by organisers’ estimates. Read more
I had travelled to Timor-Leste in the hopes of meeting someone who would freely tell us about the past. Bama, in his wish to hear an unfiltered version of events, chose to conceal his Indonesian identity. Read more
Ringed by seven lanes of traffic, the East Gate of Taipei stands alone, a small, ceremonial structure under the watchful gaze of a pink monolith dotted with tinted green windows, the former headquarters of the Kuomintang. A band of red columns support palace eaves seemingly too large for the humble stone base, giving the gate a non-defensive, almost gaudy appearance. Mounted on the crenellations, a decorative plaque proclaims its name as Jingfumen, ‘Gate of the view of good fortune’. Read more