Indonesia's President Joko Widodo, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in this May 14, 2017 file photo. (Photo by Kenzaburo Fukuhara/AFP)
A year ago the United States moved its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, sparking protests in Muslim-majority countries and drawing official condemnation at the United Nations.An estimated 30,000 people demonstrated in Jakarta as President Joko Widodo said his country “rejects” the American move as it "may disrupt the peace process in Israel and Palestine.” In late 2017, when U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would live up to his campaign promise to move the embassy, the Malaysian government endorsed a huge protest at the U.S. embassy in Kuala Lumpur, while Asia’s Muslim U.N. representatives lined up in New York to excoriate the U.S. detention in mass camps of an estimated one million or more Muslims in Xinjiang in western China — described in late April by China’s foreign ministry as "preventive anti-terrorism and de-radicalization measures" that "respect and protect human rights and have won extensive support from people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang” — has prompted barely a murmur of complaint from Muslim-majority countries in Asia.
Likewise, China’s long-standing restrictions on Catholics and other Christians rarely incur any protest from the Philippines, the continent's biggest Christian-majority country."It is disappointing that Southeast Asian countries have been silent about the more than one million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang that the Chinese government has kept in detention under political indoctrination,” said Charles Santiago, a Malaysian lawmaker and board member of Association of Southeast Asian Nations Parliamentarians for Human Rights.
The association is a non-governmental entity made up mostly of opposition lawmakers from the region — though Santiago is from Malaysia’s governing Democratic Action Party.Indonesia and Malaysia are home to minorities of Chinese descent that have been influential in business but have suffered not only discrimination and suspicion, but have suffered bouts of deadly political violence.But since signing a free tree agreement with ASEAN a decade ago, China has surged ahead as the region’s biggest trade partner, though still lags somewhat when it comes to investment.
The 2018 ASEAN Investment Report showed that 8.2 percent of all FDI [foreign direct investment] into the region in 2017 came from Chinese businesses, less than Japan’s share.
Pakistan, however, backed Beijing’s claims about counter-terrorism, while Malaysia’s interventions were restricted to issues such as gender and mental health.Before the UPR, however, Kuala Lumpur refused to extradite 11 Chinese Muslims who had escaped from China to Malaysia via Thailand, while in December 2018 a small protest at the Chinese embassy in Jakarta railed against the Chinese government’s policies in Xinjiang.
That protest was led by some of the same Islamist groups that demonstrated in 2016 against the Christian governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama.
The Protestant politician of Chinese descent was later jailed for two years for blasphemy against Islam."As Muslim-majority nations and members of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, Malaysia and Indonesia especially should express solidarity with fellow Muslims by condemning China for its treatment of the Uyghurs,” Santiago said.
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