Indonesian Conspiracy Theorists Think China Is Using Chilies as Biological Weapons

Indonesian media reports have accused China of using imported chili pepper seeds laced with bacteria as a “biological weapon” against the island nation.

by Wyatt Marshall
Dec 20 2016, 12:00am

Photo via Flickr user andreakirkby

Indonesia takes its spicy food seriously—if you've ever overdone it with sambal, you know this already.

The latest spicy news out of Indonesia has nothing to do with condiments, however. According to Reuters, Indonesian media reports have accused China of using imported chili pepper seeds laced with bacteria as a "biological weapon" against the island nation.

Indonesian authorities recently confiscated imported chili seeds at a farm run by Chinese nationals less than 40 miles from the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. The seeds in question contained erwinia chrysanthemi, a bacteria that doesn't affect humans but can devastate crops with blight, necrosis, and "soft rot." The bacteria had never been seen in Indonesia before, raising a red flag.

The seeds and fields were burned and the Chinese managers of the farm were arrested. Some Indonesians, skeptical of China's aggressive expansion of its territory and flexing its muscles in the South China Sea, are fired up about the whole thing and see a malicious conspiracy afoot. Naturally, theories have spread on social media.

"Haven't people realized that Chinese attacks on this country are real in many ways. From drugs, illegal workers, now chili bacteria," user BoengParno said on Twitter, per a Reuters translation.

The Chinese embassy in Indonesia issued a statement denying the accusations and called them "very worrying." Indonesia has a wealthy Chinese ethnic minority population that has long been the target of discrimination in the Muslim-majority country.

Indonesian authorities have similarly tried to calm the situation. Luhut Panjaitan, the country's maritime affairs minister, believes the online reaction has been overblown, saying, "'Oh, the Chinese invade Indonesia.' Come on. This is the problem with social media ... without checking, they just spread the rumors."