Indonesia Asks If Death Penalty Can Curb Terrorism

Twelve years after the deadly Bali terror bombing, whose suspects were executed, Indonesia struggles with the implications and efficacity of capital punishment.

Anti-death penalty protest in Jakarta
Anti-death penalty protest in Jakarta
Rebecca Henschke

JAKARTA — October 12 marked the 12th anniversary of the Bali Bombings in Kuta that killed more than 200 people. It came just on the heels of the World Day Against the Death Penalty.

The men found guilty of carrying out the Bali bombings were executed. Compared to China, Indonesian judges rarely hand out the death penalty, but there has been an increase in the number of executions in recent years, raising debate in the country about whether killing terrorists is the best way to stop violence.

During a political play staged to mark World Day Against the Death Penalty, in the parking lot of the Jakarta art and cultural center Taman Ismail Mazuki, three men are forced by armed guards to kneel in front of the audience. "Why must we die?" they cry out, before having black hoods placed over their heads. The guards then march forward, turn and pretend to shoot the men dead.

The actors then turn to the crowd and shout, "Abolish the death penalty!"

"For us, the death penalty is a failure of justice, the death penalty is against the constitution, against the fundamental right to life," says Usman Hamid, former head of the leading rights group KONTRAS, which organized this event. "As long as the judicial system remains corrupt and open to abuse in Indonesia, it'll be very difficult for us to make sure that no mistakes or human errors are made in implementing the death penalty.”

They staged the play largely to protest the controversial execution of three Catholic men in 2006 who were convicted of inciting mass violence between Christians and Muslim groups in central Sulawesi. Their executions sparked riots in east Indonesia, with demonstrators saying that the men were scapegoats and that the evidence against them was highly questionable.

More and more executions

"While I believe that those three men were somehow involved in the killings, I am sure that there was someone more powerful behind what took place in Central Sulawesi," says Mugiyanto, who heads a group called the Association of the Families of the Disappeared.

"They were scapegoats," he says. "There is still a very large possibility, with the Indonesian system, that the wrong verdict will be handed out."

Indonesia has had the death penalty since its independence in the 1940s, though judges have rarely used it — and when they did it was only in cases of murder with intent or drug trafficking.

But in recent years the types of crimes punishable by death have expanded to include terrorism and corruption in time of economic crisis. This has meant a dramatic increase in the number of executions.

At the Jakarta demonstration, an activist reads out a letter from Australian Brian Deegan, whose son died in the 2003 Bali attack. "The killing of those men accused of the bombing will not bring back my son or heal the pain in my heart," he wrote.

Support for the ultimate punishment

But many Indonesians disagree with Usman Hamid and the anti-death penalty movement. For example, watching the demonstration from afar is a teenage couple on a date.

"The punishment should fit the crime," one says. "I totally think that the people who did the bombs in Bali should get the death penalty. They killed loads of people."

Next to them are two poor Bajaj drivers for whom the activists' dramatic performance has changed nothing.

"Drug traffickers are responsible for destroying many young lives, the future generation," one says. "So there must be a strong punishment for them. The death penalty must be handed out."

Political support for the death penalty also remains strong. With no political will, the campaign to have it abolished faces an uphill battle.

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How China Flipped From Tech Copycat To Tech Leader

Long perceived as a country chasing Western tech, China's business and technological innovations are now influencing the rest of the world. Still lagging on some fronts, the future is now up for grabs.

At the World Semiconductor Conference in Nanjing, China, on June 9

Emmanuel Grasland

BEIJING — China's tech tycoons have fallen out of favor: Jack Ma (Alibaba), Colin Huang (Pinduoduo), Richard Liu (Tencent) and Zhang Yiming (ByteDance) have all been pressured by Beijing to leave their jobs or step back from a public role. Their time may be coming to an end, but the legacy remains exceptional. Under their reign, China has become a veritable window to the global future of technology.

TikTok is the perfect example. Launched in 2016, the video messaging app has been downloaded over two billion times worldwide. It has passed the 100-million active user mark in the United States. Thanks to TikTok's success, ByteDance, its parent company, has reached an exceptional level of influence on the internet.

For a long time, the West viewed China's digital ecosystem as a cheap imitation of Silicon Valley. The European and American media described the giants of the Asian superpower as the "Chinese Google" or "Chinese Amazon." But the tables have turned.

No Western equivalent to WeChat

The Asian superpower has forged cutting-edge business models that do not exist elsewhere. It is impossible to find a Western equivalent to the WeChat super-app (1.2 billion users), which is used for shopping as much as for making a medical appointment or obtaining credit.

The flow of innovation is now changing direction.

The roles have actually reversed: In a recent article, Les Echos describes the California-based social network IRL, as a "WeChat of the Western world."

Grégory Boutté, digital and customer relations director at the multinational luxury group Kering, explains, "The Chinese digital ecosystem is incredibly different, and its speed of evolution is impressive. Above all, the flow of innovation is now changing direction."

This is illustrated by the recent creation of "live shopping" events in France, which are hosted by celebrities and taken from a concept already popular in China.

10,000 new startups per day

There is an explosion of this phenomenon in the digital sphere. Rachel Daydou, Partner & China General Manager of the consulting firm Fabernovel in Shanghai, says, "With Libra, Facebook is trying to create a financial entity based on social media, just as WeChat did with WeChat Pay. Facebook Shop looks suspiciously like WeChat's mini-programs. Amazon Live is inspired by Taobao Live and YouTube Shopping by Douyin, the Chinese equivalent of TikTok."

In China, it is possible to go to fully robotized restaurants or to give a panhandler some change via mobile payment. Your wallet is destined to be obsolete because your phone can read restaurant menus and pay for your meal via a QR Code.

The country uses shared mobile chargers the way Europeans use bicycles, and is already testing electric car battery swap stations to avoid 30 minutes of recharging time.

Michael David, chief omnichannel director at LVMH, says, "The Chinese ecosystem is permanently bubbling with innovation. About 10,000 start-ups are created every day in the country."

China is also the most advanced country in the electric car market. With 370 models at the end of 2020, it had an offering that was almost twice as large as Europe's, according to the International Energy Agency.

Photo of a phone's screen displaying the logo of \u200bChina's super-app WeChat

China's super-app WeChat

Omar Marques/SOPA Images/ZUMA

The whole market runs on tech

Luca de Meo, CEO of French automaker Renault, said in June that China is "ahead of Europe in many areas, whether it's electric cars, connectivity or autonomous driving. You have to be there to know what's going on."

As a market, China is also a source of technological inspiration for Western companies, a world leader in e-commerce, solar, mobile payments, digital currency and facial recognition. It has the largest 5G network, with more than one million antennas up and running, compared to 400,000 in Europe.

Self-driving cars offer an interesting point of divergence between China and the West.

Just take the number of connected devices (1.1 billion), the time spent on mobile (six hours per day) and, above all, the magnitude of data collected to deploy and improve artificial intelligence algorithms faster than in Europe or the United States.

The groundbreaking field of self-driving cars offers an interesting point of divergence between China and the West. Artificial intelligence guru Kai-Fu Lee explains that China believes that we should teach the highway to speak to the car, imagining new services and rethinking cities to avoid cars crossing pedestrians, while the West does not intend to go that far.

Still lagging in some key sectors

There are areas where China is still struggling, such as semiconductors. Despite a production increase of nearly 50% per year, the country produces less than 40% of the chips it consumes, according to official data. This dependence threatens its ambitions in artificial intelligence, telecoms and autonomous vehicles. Chinese manufacturers work with an engraving fineness of 28 nm or more, far from those of Intel, Samsung or TSMC. They are unable to produce processors for high-performance PCs.

China's aerospace industry is also lagging behind the West. There are also no Chinese players among the top 20 life science companies on the stock market and there are doubts surrounding the efficacy of Sinovac and Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccines. As of 2019, the country files more patents per year than the U.S., but far fewer are converted into marketable products.

Beijing knows its weaknesses and is working to eliminate them. Adopted in March, the nation's 14th five-year plan calls for a 7% annual increase in R&D spending between now and 2025, compared with 12% under the previous plan. Big data aside, that is basic math anyone can understand.
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