Two social media influencers are facing deportation from the Indonesian tourist hotspot Bali for a painted face mask prank at a local supermarket that sparked outrage in a country ravaged by the coronavirus.
In a now-deleted clip that was uploaded to YouTube, Taiwanese-American Josh Paler Lin and Russian national Leia Se were seen being denied entry into the store for not wearing masks. As a prank to trick officers to gain entry, a masked-up Lin painted Se’s face blue and they both were allowed into the supermarket, where they proceeded to laugh and walk freely about.
“Did you notice, like, no one’s actually looking at you,” Lin joked to Se, as they walked through the aisles. “Exactly! Because it looks real,” Se said. “No one noticed, even security, I can’t believe this works,” Lin added.
However, some did appear to cast a fleeting glance in their direction, according to a saved version of the clip.
Indonesian immigration authorities confirmed on a phone call with VICE World News that they have seized both Lin and Se’s passports and are investigating.
“We take such reckless behaviour very seriously, be it foreigner or local, and will not hesitate to deport people from our island who risk public health and safety of others,” an official in Bali said.
“We’ve done it before and will do it again.”
Following the backlash, Lin and Se issued apologies on Instagram, where they appeared alongside legal representation.
Lin said he made the video to entertain people as he’s a “content creator” and that’s his job.
“However I did not realize that what I did could actually bring a lot of negative comments… we want to apologize for what we did, and we promise not to do it again,” Lin said in the video apology posted on his Instagram account nearly a week ago, where he also encouraged people to wear masks to help Bali.
The law firm representing the pair told VICE World News in an emailed statement that they would continue to follow “the regulation and applicable law in Indonesia”.
“We will do our best to protect the rights of our clients.”
Police and politicians have also commented on the uproar, saying the pair had “no empathy” for people who choose to make COVID-19 jokes. “[This happened] while people are trying to fight their way out of the pandemic storm,” said Balinese designer and politician Niluh Djelantik on her Instagram account.
Indonesia has rolled out vaccinations but remains one of the hardest-hit countries in Southeast Asia, reporting more than a million COVID-19 infections and about 45,000 deaths to date.
Bali has been a refuge for some foreigners, who chose to ride out the pandemic on the famed holiday island. But they have drawn flak from locals and made international headlines for flouting rules and flaunting their expat lifestyles.
In a widely publicized case earlier this year, American digital nomad Kristen Gray and her partner Saundra Alexander caught the attention of the public and authorities for encouraging other Westerners to seek refuge in Bali. They sparked a social media firestorm and were accused of violating Indonesian immigration laws before being deported back to the U.S.
Other foreigners banished from the island include a Syrian man who was deported after organizing a mass yoga retreat in the popular tourist town of Ubud and a Russian influencer who was found to have “violated COVID-19 health protocols” after Instagram posts showed him among a crowd partying without masks or social distancing, and driving a motorcycle into the sea. He has since been deported.
This article has been updated with comments from the law firm representing the influencers. Follow Heather Chen on Twitter.