ASEAN News

Bali Kicks Out Another Pair of ‘Influencers’ for Violating Covid Regulations

Leia Se with her painted-on mask | Image Credit: Facebook screengrab
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Authorities in Bali voted two YouTubers ‘off the island’ for their recent video stunt, which went viral in Indonesia and drew a firestorm of criticism and anger.

Here’s a handy tip for all you self-styled ‘influencers’ out there: If you’re a guest in a foreign country during a global pandemic, mocking and flouting that country’s health and safety rules is a bad idea on principle. But doing it on video and uploading it to YouTube is not just irresponsible, it’s pretty stupid, too.

Two YouTubers recently learned this lesson the hard way. Taiwan-born Josh Paler Lin and Russian Leia Se (who goes by Lisha) decided it would be entertaining to flout a gubernatorial decree on mask usage in public – and do it all on camera. On April 22, Lisha painted a fake mask on her face, then Lin filmed her entering a grocery store in Bali, all the while laughing that locals were falling for it, and expressing amusement and disbelief that the stunt was ‘working.’ (See video clip below)

The reaction on social media was probably not what the pair had hoped for | Image Credit: Twitter video

They applied the make-up after the store’s security initially turned away the maskless Lisha, then managed to get in with the fake version. Now, they are paying the price for their witless stunt, having been fined and jailed – and now soon to be deported.

The issue of foreigners behaving badly while staying in Bali during the pandemic has been a sore spot for many Indonesians, and while these particular foreigners are of course a small minority in Bali’s thriving expat scene, they certainly cast a long shadow over the entire community – despite not really even being expats in the legitimate sense themselves. In instances such as this, however, all foreigners seem to get lumped into the same basket.

In response to previous incidents, Indonesian authorities implemented some unorthodox punishments for errant foreigners – forced push-ups probably the most well-publicised of the lot – and followed that up with the more standard penalties of higher fines and possible deportation.

Foreigners in Bali were made to do on-the-spot push-ups for not wearing masks (January 2021 photo) | Image Credit: Satpol PP Badung

The freshly increased fine, however, is still just one million rupiah for foreigners, and though that’s 10 times the fine charged to a local in Bali, it’s still less than US$70 (RM284). The penalty is levied on the first offence, with a second offence resulting in deportation.

The YouTubers’ stunt went viral so quickly and fuelled so much heated criticism, the pair’s passports were seized – despite them having logged no previous offences – while authorities deliberated what to do. They, along with their Indonesian lawyer, then put together an apology video on April 24 (called a ‘clarification statement’), but Lin hardly seems sincere or remorseful, and Lisha barely says a word. It’s unclear who the four other individuals standing behind them are.

Lin (front left) and Lisha (front right) flank their lawyer and serve up a tepid apology | Image Credit: Instagram screengrab

“I make this video to entertain people because I am a content creator, and it is my job to entertain people,” Lin says in the Instagram video, now wearing a mask. He then adds, without even an inkling of self-awareness or irony: “We would like to invite everyone in Indonesia and Bali to always wear masks for our own safety and health,” a rather condescending parcel of advice locals no doubt just loved receiving from this hypocritical foreign social media personality.

Lin also mentions that he “did not realise that what I did could actually bring a lot of negative comments” – still apparently rather missing the entire point of what the actual problems with his and Lisha’s actions were! It seems that to his mind, the only downside to their stunt was that it generated some unfavourable comments.

It’s unsurprising, then, that very few were swayed by this display of crocodile tears, least of all Bali’s authorities, who announced that, despite this being the first offence for either of the ‘influencers,’ they would possibly face deportation from Indonesia.

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Netizens overwhelmingly agreed with this course of action, as outrage quickly spread in Indonesia, with calls quickly amassing for the two to be charged and deported.

Balinese politician Niluh Djelantik posted screengrabs of the video on her own social media accounts and called on immigration to arrest and deport the offenders | Image Credit: Instagram

Ultimately, immigration authorities decided to do just that.

“We will deport the foreigners in accordance with the Immigration Law Number 6 Year 2011 concerning Immigration,” Jamaruli Manihuruk, head of the regional office of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights Bali, said in a televised press conference.

“The plan is to deport them, but it’s still a plan because we’re still looking at when they can depart. It depends on the flights to their country, but we hope to do it soon,” Jamaruli said.

“It’s only proper to sanction them more severely, not just with a fine but also deportation,” said Bali’s civil service police unit head Dewa Nyoman Rai Dharmadi. “They are not only violating, but deliberately provoking in public to defy health guidelines.”

The coronavirus will not be fooled by this ‘mask’ | Image Credit: Instagram

Ironically, their subscriber and follower counts have only increased since the incident, once again lending support to the notion that, for people like these two, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. (Worth noting is that many of the recent comments are critical and a few are mockingly calling on the pair to be sure to “make a deportation video… we can’t wait to see it.”)

Lin, who is Taiwanese, is known for his stunt and prank videos on YouTube, where he has 3.4 million subscribers.

Lisha, a Russian citizen, has 25,000 followers on Instagram, where she posts photos of herself wearing glamorous gowns and partying by pools and in other fancy settings. She also appears in many of Lin’s videos.

Leia Se and Josh Paler Lin will not be living large in Bali any longer | Image Credit: Instagram

This is not the first time this year Bali has booted out these self-entitled, so-called ‘influencers’: In January, Indonesian immigration deported an American digital nomad named Kristen Gray after her controversial Twitter thread about moving to Bali went viral and was deemed by authorities to have ‘unsettled the public.’

Later in the same month, immigration also deported a Russian influencer’ named Sergei Kosenko for flouting health protocols and violating the purpose of his stay permit during his time in Indonesia. Kosenko had posted a video of himself driving a motorcycle with a female passenger on the back off a pier into the sea. The stunt was condemned by many Indonesians as not only reckless, but likely hazardous to the environment, as well.

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