Indonesia shuts down radio station airing Falun Gong reports amid charges of Chinese pressure

Jakarta, Indonesia - Indonesian officials have shut down a private radio station that aired reports about the Falun Gong group, saying Thursday that it did not have the proper operating license.

But the director of Radio Erabaru (New Era Radio), which broadcasts news and entertainment in Mandarin and Indonesian languages from Batam island, accused government officials of bowing to pressure from the Chinese government.

Raymond Tan said he believed the Wednesday raid and seizure of radio transmission equipment by police and officials with the Radio Frequency Monitoring Office was the result of complaints made by the Chinese Embassy.

Calls to the embassy seeking comment were not answered Thursday.

China banned the Falun Gong spiritual movement more than a decade ago, calling it an "evil cult." Some of the movement's leaders and thousands of followers were arrested.

Raymond said the Chinese Embassy had sent a letter in 2007 to Indonesian authorities complaining about the radio station's broadcasts. That pressure has continued, he maintained, saying "it was clear" that Chinese intervention played a role in the station's closure.

Waving banners, about 20 members of the station's supporters held a rally outside the government monitoring office, protesting the closure of the station. "Stop China's intervention into Indonesian press freedom," and "This is Indonesian territory, not China! Why should we listen to them?" read banners unfurled at the peaceful protest.

Gatot Dewa Broto, a spokesman for the Ministry of Communication and Information, confirmed the station was shut down but denied any Chinese role. Instead, he said the radio station did not have the correct permit to broadcast.

"Such a measure of restoring law and order is a normal thing," he said.

But Raymond said the decision was unacceptable since the radio station is awaiting a court ruling on a lawsuit filed over the ministry's refusal to grant the license since 2007.

"We have told them that we are still waiting for the Supreme Court's ruling, but they didn't care," Raymond said.

The radio station's lawyer, Soleh Ali, accused the Indonesian government of refusing to guarantee the rights of its own citizens.

"In our view, the government is no longer independent," he said.