Police forcefully disperse protests in Batam City – Government’s project in Rempang Island is forcing residents to relocate

Thousands of residents of Rempang Island, Galang District, Batam City, Riau Islands Province, have been widely protesting against government plans to evict thousands of people to make way for the ‘Eco-City’ Project. The Project has been classified as of “strategic national importance” by the government, which means that, under Indonesia’s land rights legislation, it is entitled to seize the land provided it gives residents appropriate financial compensation and alternative accommodation. The land will need to be cleared to develop the Eco-City industrial and tourism area on Rempang Island. PT Makmur Elok Graha (MEG), the owner of the land rights, is expected to build a glass and solar panel factory with the Chinese Xinyi Group’s investment.

The dispute over the evictions has been heating up for the past two months, after the government announced that Rempang’s 7,500 residents would have to move inland, some 60km away from their coastal homes and that they have until 28 September to do that. Many make a living from the sea, selling locally caught fish, crabs, shrimp and other seafood. On 23 August 2023 thousands of residents of Rempang Island, Galang District, Batam City, together with the alliance of Malay Youth throughout Riau Islands Province held a demonstration at the Batam Business Agency (BP) office. The massive demonstration demanded a rejection of investment in Rempang Island, causing old villagers and historical sites to be threatened with evict. For the residents, the land is considered customary land, referred to as their “old village” (kampung tua). As the deadline for moving out approaches the protests have grown larger and more violent.

On 11 September 2023, riots broke out in Batam City, which resulted in many victims of violence including the protesters, the police and even BP Batam’s (Batam’s free trade zone and free port authority) security personnel. Media outlets report the arrests of many protesters. The numbers go from 14 people arrested and interrogated to 43. The arrestees were taken to the Barelang Police for interrogation, they were also asked to take off their clothes and squat. The police stated that as many as 15 police officers were injured by stones thrown by the crowd. These last protests captured more public attention thanks to social media, where footage showing police using tear gas to disperse a crowd was uploaded.

Despite the growing opposition to the project, the government appears determined to go ahead with the Eco-City.  For the residents, the uprising has become the only solution to express their demands. It remains unclear, however, what will happen if Rempang’s residents do not leave of their own accord by the end of the month.

Detailed Case Data
name of the location: Galang, Batam (0.847043996726006, 104.17422596196366)
administrative region: Indonesia, Riau Islands Province, Batam City
total number of victims: dozens
period of incident: 11.09.2023
perpetrator: police, government
perpetrator details:
Issues: freedom of expression, housing, cultural rights
Further HRM News:

NumberName, DetailsGenderAgeGroup AffiliationViolations
dozensunknown unknownunknownactivistfreedom of expression, arbitrary detention
thousandsunknown unknownunknownunknown housing