Indonesian presidential candidates divided on rule of law, terrorism

January 17, 2019
Jakarta, Indonesia

There was a clear gap on how Indonesia will deal with law, human rights and terrorism in the first 2019 presidential debate between Joko “Jokowi” Widodo-Ma’ruf Amin and Prabowo Subianto-Sandiaga. Jokowi presented his vision of a law and human rights approach, strengthening law enforcement institutions to tackle with corruption. Prabowo emphasised higher wages for the military, police and courts. Both saw their approach as being the best way to deal with terrorism. The debate was a prelude for a major rupture in foreign affairs, particularly with neighbouring Australia, due to the early release of Abu Bakar Bashir, the alleged mastermind of the 2002 Bali bombing that targeted foreign tourists.


Indonesia: Release of Abu Bakar Bashir cancelled

January 22, 2019
Jakarta, Indonesia

The early release of the radical Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, who is suspected to be mastermind behind the 2002 Bali Bombings, first announced last week, has been cancelled.
President Joko Widodo said Tuesday that Abu Bakar Bashir would only be released from jail if he pledged loyalty to the state and its ideology, after the chief security minister said the decision to release Bashir unconditionally had to be reviewed. Widodo declared further it would only be a “constitutional release” and require Bashir to give a loyalty pledge (which he has refused). Widodo faced protests from within his Party, as well as from victims and their families and the Australian government.


Can China End the Trade War in an Upcoming Talk with U.S.?

January 21, 2019
Beijing, China

The Global Times — a popular Chinese state newspaper with focus on international issues — expressed optimism that a trade agreement might finally be reached in an upcoming meeting (tentative) between China and U.S. In a softened tone, the newspaper claimed President Trump and his administration are now very hopeful for holding a trade talk with China before March 1st, and the Chinese journalists attributed Trump’s sudden turn from hard line attitude to his strategic needs “to ease the domestic situations — the political tension resulting from the prolonged U.S. government shutdown and the economic tension in U.S. market due to trade war”. This major state news media again brought up the issue as it updated the prospect of the trade meeting on its headline two days later, refuting the rumor of cancelled trade talk with U.S.— a day after the Financial Times reported Trump’s cancellation of the preparatory talk scheduled with two Chinese vice-ministers between January 21st to 25th. It then assured that an “important” trade talk will be held on January 30th and 31st between China’s vice-premier, Liu He, and Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative. However, the newspaper was seen subtly switching the wording and relegating what it previously described as the main, high-level “important trade talk” with Liu He down to a level of “preparatory talk” in the later report, quietly sweeping the cancellation of “preparatory talk” with two Chinese vice-ministers under the rug.


China: US committing ‘high-tech McCarthyism’

January 17, 2019
Beijing, China

Frequent coverage of the arrest of Huawei’s employees in US and Poland on two of the popular news sources Sina (新浪网) and The Global Times (环球时报) highlights how much Chinese public and government attention has focused on the incident. A featured editorial from The Global Times suggested the arrest of Huawei executive Meng was a calculated political move by the United States to “suppress” the rise of China and its rapid technological advancement. It claims that US legislators are abusing legal institutions, as they falsely accused Huawei’s employees of corporate espionage as a way to achieve their political ends of “suppressing” China’s rise, creating ‘McCarthyism for the high-tech era’.