[JAKARTA] Indonesian riot police on Friday fired tear gas during clashes with hundreds of rock-pelting Islamic hardliners who protested against Jakarta's incoming Christian Chinese governor.
The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) has demanded incoming governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama be prevented from taking office because of his ethnicity and religion, branding him an "infidel" and "the devil".
Some 20 FPI protestors were arrested after they hurled rocks and animal faeces at City Hall before pulling out weapons, including at least one sword, Jakarta police said. Sixteen police officers were injured in the clashes.
The riot squad responded with tear gas as the hardliners tried to break police lines and enter the building, even though Purnama was in South Korea attending the Asian Games closing ceremony, according to the Jakarta Globe.
Most of the police suffered head injuries due to the rocks and at least one suffered a sword wound, said Jakarta police spokesman Rikwanto, who goes by one name.
Purnama has become the most visible ethnically Chinese politician in Indonesia, the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation, and is widely liked for his no-nonsense, straight-talking style.
His campaign to crack down on corruption and clean up Jakarta's administration has also earned him public support in the capital.
He is expected to soon be sworn in as governor to replace Joko Widodo, who won the July presidential election and is scheduled to be inaugurated as the nation's leader on October 20.
Chinese-Indonesians suffered decades of persecution under the Suharto dictatorship - which banned most forms of Chinese expression, including the language - before it fell in 1998.
The FPI has carried out several violent protests and attacks in recent years with almost complete impunity, despite repeated calls for the government to ban the organisation.
The group has succeeded in getting events it deems "un-Islamic" either cancelled or changed in the past. In 2012, pop sensation Lady Gaga axed a concert in Jakarta after protests led by the FPI. - AFP