Palestine And Uyghur: Muslim But Different Policies – OpEd


The discrimination against Muslim Uyghur in Xinjiang, China has been a prominent issue. In early September, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) brought up the issue into its table and offered its members a vote. As a result, 19 of 49 countries rejected or refused to have investigated China’s Uyghur. Of those countries, Indonesia was one of them. The rejection of those countries including Indonesia was to refuse the debate of Human Rights violations in Xinjiang. 

For some contexts, in recent years, there have been numerous reports revealed about Xinjiang’s Muslim. The reports asked for the Chinese government to take its accountability for its massive human rights violence such as mass detention, political indoctrination, and forced assimilation. The latest report from Amnesty International noted that there are several missing of Muslim Uyghur. Since August 2020, Weilina Muhatai, an ethnic Kazakh woman living in Xinjiang, and her two sons, Muhayanti Haleyora and Parisati Haliyoula, has been missing. In another case, Halitoula Tuerxun died in detention in December 2020. 

Regarding its rejection, the Indonesian government argued that Indonesia does not want to be involved in political tensions between China and the United States. The vice ministry of foiregn affairs in Jenewa, Febrian A Ruddy said, “Indonesia considered that the approach proposed by submitted countries and Human Rights Councils does not make a significant action for Human Rights […] hence based on the considerations, Indonesia does not take a agreed position towards the debate.”

Through Indonesia’s action about human rights, many researchers ask Indonesia’s empathy and inquire about the basic principle of Indonesia’ s foreign policy called free and active. They said what we called “free and active” has been misinterpreted by the government. 

Palestine is active mode, but Uyghur is in silent 

CNN Indonesia also has highlighted that why Indonesia always focuses on Palestinian issue but in the sametine, Indonesia denies Uyghur issue. 

Similar to the reports of Uyghur disrimination, there are many reports that involve Indonesia supporting Palestine’s sovereignty. According to Antara News, on July 2022, Indonesia Ambassador to Spain, Muhammad Najib said Indonesia was continuing to support Palestine. He said, “Indonesia always stands together with Palestine, now and forever.” 

Indonesia also encouraged its support by fostering communication and exchanging views with Palestine’s envoy, when Indonesia’s envoy met Husni Abdel Wahed, Palestinian Ambassador to Spain. 

Furthermore, in May 20, 2021, the Indonesian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Retno Marsudi on the General Debate of the 67th Plenart Meeting of the UN General Assembly at the UN, New York, USA affirmed that Indonesia’s present on Palestinian issue is for humanity, justice, and ceasefire. “The continued occupation and the aggression by Israel does not only warrant condemnation but is also a grave violation of international law.  The UN must immediately take concrete action,” said Retno Marsudi. 

But, Indonesia’s support to Palestine does not exist as same policy as Uyghur Muslim. 

Reported by Jakarta Post in Dec. 23, 2019, Moeldoko, Presidential Chief of Staff said Indonesia does not have a need to meddle in the internal affairs of China. Thus, China has rights to control its resident by its policy, including Uyghur Muslim. 

Indonesia hurts its constitution: Neutrality?

Both involved actors, Palestine and Uyghur, are Muslim aligning with Indonesia’s population that mostly 90 percent are Muslim. 

Though that fact, Muslim Arbi, the Director of Gerakan Perubahan, argued that Indonesia’s action in UNHCR contrats with the substance Undang-Undang Dasar (UUD) 1945 and humanity concept as the basic principle of Indonesia’s foreign policy. 

In Indonesia’s constitution, particularly about Indonesia’s foreign policy, article 3 in 1999, the doctrine of free and active is not only about neutrality, but also how Indonesia can act wisely to respond to international problems. Consequently, Indonesia should promote peace, sovereignty, and social justice. That point also emphasises that Indonesia is active in solving any disputes. 

At this point, Indonesia should make a clear stance against Uyghur. Indonesian diplomats do not do a vast amount of research about their decision. Despite a lack of knowledge, a good decision is supposed to represent the interest of Indonesia’s people. In fact, the Indonesian government does not do that. 

For examples, reported by CNN Indonesia in Dec. 2019, Front Pembela Islam (FPI) and its 10 million followres, did a demonstration in front of China Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia. They asked for justice for Uyghur Muslim. The action was also held in the same place in 2022. They did that because of the similarity of identity. In Islam, even though they are a foreign citizen who lives in other countries and they are a Muslim, the Muslim people will say “we are brothers.” Muslim will refer to Al-Hujurat verse 10. 

Hence Indonesia’s decision on Uyghur issue not only hurts Indonesia’s Muslim people, but also the constitution. 

M Habib Pashya, a researcher at the Center for Indonesia-China Studies (CICS)

M Habib Pashya

M Habib Pashya is a Master's student at Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM). His research focuses on China's foreign policy, Indonesia's foreign policy, and US-Taiwan-China relations.

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