More than 80 students wounded during Indonesia protest


Indonesian riot police fire tear gas to disperse student protesters during a clash outside parliament in Jakarta, Indonesia, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. Police fired tear gas and water cannons Tuesday to disperse thousands of rock-throwing students protesting a new law that they said has crippled Indonesia’s anti-corruption agency. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — More than 80 university students in Indonesia’s capital were being treated at a hospital Wednesday, a day after clashing with police during protests sparked by a new law that critics say cripples the country’s anti-corruption agency.

Officials at Jakarta’s Pertamina Hospital said that 88 students were treated for injuries that included broken bones, head wounds and respiratory problems due to tear gas.

The protest outside Parliament on Tuesday saw police fire tear gas and water cannons to disperse thousands of rock-throwing students. The protest was dispersed just before midnight.

By Wednesday morning, city officers were cleaning up rocks, plastic bottles, banners, and other debris from the protest.

Students held similar protests and clashed with police in cities around the country on Tuesday, including Bandung, Yogyakarta, Malang, Palembang, and Medan. Several student groups vowed to return to the streets Wednesday and do so until the new law is revoked.

Critics say the law passed in Parliament last week reduces the authority of the Corruption Eradication Commission, a key body in fighting endemic graft in the country.

The fallout from the new law, which underlines Indonesia’s challenge in changing its graft-ridden image, has threatened the credibility of President Joko Widodo, who recently won a second term after campaigning for clean governance.

Corruption is endemic in Indonesia and the anti-graft commission, one of the few effective institutions in the country of nearly 270 million people, is frequently under attack by lawmakers who want to reduce its powers.

Hundreds of officials from various branches of government have been arrested since the independent anti-graft commission was established in 2002 as part of people’s demands during a reform movement following the ouster of the country’s longtime strongman leader, Suharto.

Activists say the revision weakens the powers of one of the most credible public institutions in a country where the police and Parliament are perceived as being widely corrupt.

The revisions also reduce its independence, with investigators becoming civil servants who need to be seconded from state bodies, including the police.

The new protests are not associated with a particular party or group and instead are led by students, who historically have been a driving force of political change. Their demonstrations in 1998 triggered events that led Suharto to step down.

Those demonstrating this week are demanding that Widodo issued a government regulation replacing the new law.

The protesters also urged Parliament to delay votes on a new criminal code that would criminalize or increase penalties on a variety of sexual activities, as well as other bills on mining, land, and labor. Opponents say the proposed criminal code threatens democracy and discriminates against minorities.

Widodo met Tuesday with lawmakers, whose terms finish at the end of this month, to urge them to delay votes on the bills after considering public concerns. Lawmakers then delayed their votes on the proposed laws in their last plenary session.

Critics say the criminal code bill contains articles that violate the rights of women, religious minorities, lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people, as well as freedoms of speech and association.

The planned revisions prompted Australia to update its travel advice, warning tourists of risks they could face from extramarital or gay sex if the bill is passed.

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