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Indonesian Chinese Express Worries Ahead of Presidential Election

  • Fatiyah Wardah

The head of the Indonesian Employers Association says many Indonesians of Chinese descent are being targeted for threats ahead of Wednesday's presidential elections.

Sofjan Wanandi, who is of Chinese heritage, said in VOA interview Tuesday that Chinese-Indonesians have been receiving text messages and social media posts warning them to vote for a certain presidential candidate or face punishment.

"They became scared after receiving all kinds of text messages, he said. "They also read all types of unconfirmed reports from social media. This made them very worried, as some of them were victims of the 1997-98 riots."

Wanandi, whose association has a large number of members of Chinese descent, added that because of their memories from the 1990s, many are choosing to leave the country to avoid being targets of violence during or after this year's presidential vote.

But Djoko Suyanto, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, said in an interview with VOA's Indonesian service that reports of Chinese-Indonesians fleeing the country are false and baseless.

"I think it is the entire nation’s hope that this election, that will decide the course of our democracy in the future, will be peaceful. If we agree on that, we will have to use all our actions, efforts and energy to make that a reality."

Authorities say more than 250,000 police and 30,000 soldiers are being deployed to ensure security for the election.

A new poll of voters indicates that Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo, or Jokowi, is running slightly ahead of his opponent, former army general Prabowo Subianto.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Indonesian service.