Indonesian president Jokowi calls for arrest of people spreading rumours about massive influx of Chinese workers

Indonesian President Joko Widodo inspects a guard of honour during a ceremonial reception at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo inspects a guard of honour during a ceremonial reception at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - A rumour that millions of Chinese workers are being allowed into Indonesia has irked President Joko Widodo so much he has asked the National Police to pursue and arrest those spreading it, The Jakarta Post reported.

Mr Joko, better known by his nickname Jokowi, said that currently only about 21,000 Chinese nationals are working in Indonesia, not the 10 million the rumour has claimed.

"This is under the authority of the police, but the rumour monger should be arrested," he said as quoted by kompas.com in an event in Karawang, West Java, on Friday (Dec 23).

He said 10 million was not the number of Chinese workers in Indonesia, but the number of tourist visits the government wants from China.

"If they do not have the data, they should not spread it (the rumour)," as it had deceived the society, Jokowi said.

The president said the number of Chinese workers in Indonesia was still smaller than the number of Indonesian workers in other countries such as Malaysia and Hong Kong, where there were two million and 153,000, respectively.

He said foreign workers would unlikely come to Indonesia to work. "They will not come to work here, which offers lower wages. I convey this with a hope that the rumour would not spread further," he said.

The rumour comes at a sensitive time with hardline Muslim groups pushing against the Chinese governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known by his nickname Ahok.

Mr Basuki is currently embroiled in a high-profile court case where he is fighting accusations of blasphemy over an incident when he made comments about his election opponents' use of the Quran. The comments were made by Mr Basuki during a campaign speech for next year's gubernatorial election.

Mr Basuki had apologised previously for his remarks, but police went ahead with investigations in a bid to defuse tensions.

During his blasphemy trial on Dec 13, Mr Basuki, an ethnic Chinese Christian, broke into tears as he said he had not intended to insult Islam when he made the comments.