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JAKARTA, Indonesia (RNS) — In mid-December, hundreds in this majority-Muslim country rallied outside the Chinese Embassy here to protest China’s treatment of its Muslim minority Uighurs. Similar rallies took place in Bandung, Aceh and Surakarta the same day, all calling on the Indonesian government and President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to speak up on behalf of Uighur religious and human rights.
For Uighur activists, the protests were a welcome sign that Muslim countries allied with China were willing to pressure Beijing about its crackdown against the Uighurs. “People in Muslim-majority countries are starting to speak up and starting to realize what’s happening,” said Omer Kanat, director of the Uighur Human Rights Project in Washington, D.C.
Muslims - China - Xinjiang - Province - Re-education
More than a million Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province are reportedly being held in massive re-education camps, where inmates are allegedly subject to forced labor. Mosques have been shut down, destroyed or turned into tourist bars. Traditional Friday prayers are now barely attended.
“China takes these protests very seriously, because they have great interest in Muslim countries,” said Kanat. Several Muslim-majority countries are part of China’s massive Belt and Road Initiative, including six of the top 10 countries getting Chinese investment for infrastructure improvements, according to a report from the American Enterprise Institute.
Indonesia - Rallies - Statements - Support - Opposition
In Indonesia, however, the rallies, which were followed by strong statements of support from the opposition party leaders, may be aimed less at China than at Jokowi’s leadership — and at ethnic Chinese Indonesians. At the December protest, several notorious right-wing Islamist organizations made their presence known, notably the Islamic Defenders Front. The IDF’s leader, Slamet Ma’arif, helped lead...
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