China alarmed as chili ‘con­spir­acy’ heats up

Bei­jing ac­cused of us­ing bio weapon against In­done­sia

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

JAKARTA:

China’s em­bassy in In­done­sia has ex­pressed alarm at me­dia re­ports ac­cus­ing China of us­ing a “bi­o­log­i­cal weapon” against In­done­sia, af­ter four Chi­nese na­tion­als were ar­rested for plant­ing im­ported chili seeds con­tam­i­nated with a bac­te­ria. The head­lines splashed across In­done­sian me­dia have sparked a wave of anti-Chi­nese sen­ti­ment on so­cial me­dia in a coun­try with a his­tory of sim­mer­ing re­sent­ment to­wards its gi­ant neigh­bor and a mi­nor­ity eth­nic Chi­nese com­mu­nity.

In­done­sian au­thor­i­ties said the im­ported chili seeds con­fis­cated on a farm about 60 km (37 miles) south of the cap­i­tal, Jakarta, con­tained the bac­te­ria er­winia chrysan­themi, which is harm­less to hu­mans but can cause fail­ure in crops. It was the first time the bac­te­ria had been de­tected in In­done­sia, the sta­te­owned news agency An­tara quoted the head of the coun­try’s quar­an­tine body as say­ing. In­done­sians are among the most avid users of so­cial me­dia in the world, and con­spir­acy the­o­ries about the in­ten­tions of the four Chi­nese na­tion­als run­ning the farm quickly spread.

“Haven’t peo­ple re­al­ized that Chi­nese at­tacks on this coun­try are real in many ways. From drugs, il­le­gal work­ers, now chili bac­te­ria”, said a twit­ter user with the han­dle @Bo­engParno.

Au­thor­i­ties burned the chili seeds and de­stroyed the crop sowed by the Chi­nese men and 30 In­done­sian work­ers on a leased plot of land near the city of Bo­gor. The Chi­nese em­bassy in a state­ment said ac­cu­sa­tions of a plot to use “bi­o­log­i­cal weapons to de­stroy the econ­omy of In­done­sia” car­ried no ba­sis in facts and were “very wor­ry­ing”. “We hope that the bi­lat­eral re­la­tions and friend­ship be­tween the peo­ple of China and In­done­sia will not be af­fected by this mat­ter”.

In­done­sia’s mar­itime af­fairs min­is­ter Luhut Pan­jai­tan crit­i­cized some of the out­bursts on so­cial me­dia. “Whether it’s true or not, some peo­ple over re­act,” he said. “‘Oh, the Chi­nese in­vade In­done­sia’. Come on. This is the prob­lem with so­cial me­dia ... With­out check­ing, they just spread the ru­mors.”

In­done­sia has suf­fered bouts of an­tiChi­nese and anti-com­mu­nist sen­ti­ment over its his­tory, and re­cently. Pres­i­dent Joko Wi­dodo was falsely iden­ti­fied as hav­ing eth­nic Chi­nese an­ces­try and be­ing an agent of in­flu­ence for Bei­jing dur­ing a 2014 elec­tion cam­paign he nar­rowly won.

There has also been a re­cent spike on so­cial me­dia of hos­til­ity over China’s ter­ri­to­rial am­bi­tions in the South China Sea as well dur­ing the re-elec­tion cam­paign of Jakarta gover­nor Ba­suki Pur­nama, an eth­nic Chi­nese Chris­tian.

Hun­dreds of thou­sands of In­done­sians at­tended ral­lies in the past six weeks de­nounc­ing Pur­nama, who is fac­ing trial for blas­phemy af­ter crit­i­ciz­ing peo­ple who had cited the Ko­ran to ar­gue that Mus­lims should not vote for non-Mus­lims. On av­er­age, eth­nic Chi­nese are far wealth­ier than other groups in In­done­sia and stereo­types per­sist that they are less pa­tri­otic than other In­done­sians. — Reuters

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