Indonesia is not issuing ID cards enabling Chinese citizens to vote in 2024

  • This article is more than one year old.
  • Published on February 7, 2023 at 07:23
  • Updated on February 7, 2023 at 08:16
  • 6 min read
  • By AFP Indonesia
Indonesian social media users have shared a false claim that the country has issued more than 13,000 ID cards to Chinese citizens so they can vote in the upcoming 2024 elections. But according to Indonesia's laws, only Indonesian citizens can vote in the elections. A government official not only confirmed this but also told AFP just around 900 ID cards had been issued to Chinese citizens. As of February 7, 2023, only foreign citizens who held Permanent Stay Permits (KITAP) from the Immigration Office were eligible for ID cards, under the archipelago nation's immigration laws.

"Thousands of foreign Chinese citizens were given ID cards for the 2024 elections," read the caption of this Facebook post, dated January 8, 2023.

The post also shared a video of a man reading an article published by Populis, an Indonesian political news site that regularly posts clickbait, on January 7, 2023. It is headlined: "Imam of Mosque in New York Shakes His Head Seeing Thousands of Foreign Chinese Citizens Given ID cards for 2024 Elections, OMG!"

The man in the video points at the photo on the article and says: "Look, those are the ID cards... so many!"

The two-minute, 20-second footage has been viewed more than 530 times.

Screenshot of the misleading post, taken on February 7, 2023

The Populis article references Shamsi Ali, an Indonesian imam and chairman of the Al-Hikmah Mosque in New York, who tweeted a misleading video on January 5, 2023, with a similar claim, that Indonesia had issued thousands of electronic ID cards -- known as e-KTP -- to Chinese citizens.

Days later, Shamsi Ali tweeted that he shared the claim because he was "surprised" hearing it.

The claims circulated as Indonesia is gearing up for the 2024 elections, which would vote not only lawmakers but also the country's president and vice president.

The video also circulated alongside a similar claim on Facebook here, on Twitter here and here and on YouTube here -- garnering more than 800 views.

Both the clip, which was originally uploaded on video-sharing app SnackVideo, and the Populis article, included a denial from the government.

However, comments from some social media users indicated they believed the claim.

One Facebook user wrote: "The regime is ignorant and don't want to lose, they have already planned to scheme and cheat," while a SnackVideo user commented: "this is a way to win the 2024 elections."

Screenshots of social media users' comments

But the claim is false.

A reverse-image search on Google found the photo in the Populis article and the misleading video does not show ID cards issued to Chinese citizens.

The photo of the ID cards was published in a 2018 report from Indonesia's state-run news agency Antara about the arrests of civil registry officials who collected illegal ID card fees in Jember, a city in East Java province.

The photo's caption partly reads: "A police officer shows electronic ID cards and children's ID cards during the media briefing on the arrests related to the case of illegal fees imposed on identity documents, at Jember Police Headquarters, East Java, Friday, November 2, 2018."

Screenshot comparison of the photo in the Populis article (left) and the genuine photo from Antara (right):

Screenshot comparison of the photo in Populis article (left) and the genuine photo from Antara (right)

Only Indonesian citizens can vote

According to the Indonesian General Elections Commission's regulations, eligible voters need to be Indonesian citizens who either have reached at least 17 years of age, have married or were married.

Zudan Arif Fakrulloh, director general of Indonesia's population and civil registry, has debunked the false claim in a video he posted on his official TikTok account on January 11, 2023.

"The Population and Civil Registry Agency has never issued electronic ID cards for foreign citizens for elections because foreign citizens cannot take part in elections, because one needs to be an Indonesian citizen in order to vote," he said in the video.

ID cards for foreign citizens

In the TikTok video, Zudan said that as of January 2023, a total of 16,915 electronic ID cards had been issued to foreign nationals.

That was an increase of nearly 30 percent from the 13,056 ID cards issued to foreign nationals, as of March 2022.

Based on the March 2022 figures, South Koreans were the largest group with electronic ID cards (1,227), followed by Japanese (1,057) and Australians (1,006). Citizens from China (909) are in fifth place behind the Netherlands (961).

"Giving an electronic ID card to a foreigner is not an easy process. We have very restricted requirements," Zudan told AFP. "We can only issue it to a foreigner holding Permanent Stay Permits (KITAP) from the Immigration Office."

KITAP allows foreign citizens to stay for five years at a time.

According to Indonesian Law No. 6/2011 on Immigration, KITAP can be granted to: foreign nationals holding a Temporary Stay Permit (KITAS) as clerics, workers, investors and the elderly; a family member of a mixed nationality marriage; the husband, wife, and/or children of a foreign national holding a KITAP; and a foreign national who used to have Indonesian citizenship.

Zudan also dismissed concerns that foreign citizens could still use their electronic ID cards on Election Day.

"The colours are different," he told AFP -- pointing out that since 2022, electronic ID cards for foreign citizens are orange-coloured, while for adult Indonesian citizens it's blue.

"For Indonesian citizens, their electronic ID cards are valid for life, but for foreigners the validity period is limited. The information on their ID cards is also written in English, and there is also information about their country of origin," Zudan added. "The local poll administrators could definitely tell them apart."

He shared what the ID cards look like in his TikTok video.

Below are screenshots from Zudan's TikTok video, which shows an electronic ID card for a foreign citizen (left) and another for an Indonesian citizen (right):

Screenshots from Zudan's TikTok video, which show an electronic ID card for a foreign citizen (left) and another for an Indonesian citizen (right)

The back side of the ID cards can be seen on the website of the Population and Civil Registry Agency in Denpasar, Bali: the one for a foreign citizen is at the top while the other for an Indonesian citizen at the bottom:

Screenshot of the photo on the Denpasar Population and Civil Registry Agency's website, showing electronic ID cards for a foreign citizen (top) and an Indonesian citizen (bottom)

AFP also debunked a similar false claim that circulated ahead of the 2019 elections.

At that time, the Home Affairs Ministry issued a statement that foreigners who were legally required to have an electronic ID cards did not have the right to vote or be elected.

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