DENPASAR, Indonesia — An American graphic designer is being deported from the Indonesian resort island of Bali over her viral tweets that celebrated it as a low-cost, queer-friendly place for foreigners to live.
Kristen Antoinette Gray arrived in Bali in January 2020 and wound up staying through the coronavirus pandemic. Her posts on Twitter, including comparisons between Bali and Los Angeles and links to buy her e-book, began going viral in Indonesia on Sunday.
“This island has been amazing because of our elevated lifestyle at much lower cost of living. I was paying $1,300 for my LA studio. Now I have a treehouse for $400,” one of Gray’s posts on Twitter said.
Gray’s posts were considered to have “disseminated information disturbing to the public,” which was the basis for her deportation, said Jamaruli Manihuruk, chief of the Bali regional office for the Ministry of Law and Human Rights.
A statement from the office cited her descriptions of Bali providing comfort for LGBTQ people and being easily accessible during the pandemic. It also referenced tweets with links to her e-book, which had direct links to agents who could help foreigners move to the island.
“She stated that she could provide easy access to Bali through the recommended agency and offered the low living costs in Bali, that it is comfortable and LGBTQ-friendly,” Manihuruk said at a news conference Tuesday.
Her tweets also referenced her e-book costing $30 and a follow-up consultation about becoming an expatriate in Bali for $50. “She is suspected of carrying out business activities by selling e-books and put a rate for consulting (about) Bali tourism,” Manihuruk said.
Many Indonesian social media users were furious that she was showing off living and working in Bali without a proper business visa.
“I am not guilty. I have not overstayed my (tourist) visa. I am not making money in Indonesian rupiah. I put out a statement about LGBT and I am deported because of LGBT,” Gray told reporters after Immigration officials announced the deportation.
Indonesia has temporarily restricted foreigners from coming to the country since Jan. 1 to control the spread of COVID-19, and public activities have been restricted on Java and Bali islands.
“The Bali Regional Office of the Ministry of Law and Human Rights urges foreign nationals to comply with the current COVID-19 pandemic to comply with health protocols and to follow right procedures regarding visa processing and while in Indonesia,” Manihuruk said.
Gray and her partner, Saundra Michelle Alexander, are currently in immigration detention while waiting for a flight to the United States.