Ethnic Chinese Christian leader takes charge in the Indonesia capital

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, aka Ahok

Indonesia’s presidential race isn’t until July. But there’s already one winner.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known by his nickname “Ahok,” has taken over as acting governor of the Indonesian capital Jakarta. He is the first ethnic Chinese to do so in a country that is 95% native Indonesian and has the world’s largest Muslim population.

A Christian, Ahok succeeds Joko “Jokowi” Widodo who has stepped aside to run for the presidential election on July 9, which opinion polls suggest he will win. Ahok will automatically take over to complete Jokowi’s five-year term if he does win. Indonesia’s Chinese make up only about 2% of the 240 million population.

Resented for their wide control over trade and business, and suspected of loyalty to China, Indonesian-Chinese have been deliberately kept out of the political and military hierarchy for most of the country’s almost 70 years of independence. The resentment, which has burst into bloody riots in the past, appears to be on the wane, although it’s not over.

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There have been Chinese living in Indonesia for centuries. They have an importance in business and trade out of proportion to their numbers and have been subject to resentment, including periodic violence.

They have been forced to change their names to Indonesian-sounding ones, hence his non-Chinese name. More at Wikipedia.