Tweets that got woman kicked out of Bali
An American woman living in Bali is being deported following outrage over a series of tweets in which she detailed her idyllic new life on the holiday island.
Travel influencer Kristen Gray has also come under fire for promoting and selling an e-book she wrote to help others considering a similar move to Bali.
The social media outrage prompted an investigation by immigration authorities, who said while Gray had a valid visa she was suspected of breaking the law and would be sent home on the next available flight to the United States.
Gray and her girlfriend Saundra moved to Bali in 2019 with the plan to stay for six months but extended their stay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
They’ve been living as “digital nomads” on the island ever since, sharing insights into their idyllic life on Instagram and TikTok.
But Gray came to broader public attention with a recent Twitter thread in which she described how the decision to move to Bali had been a “game changer”.
“This island has been amazing because of our elevated lifestyle at a much lower cost of living,” Gray said in the now-deleted tweets.
“I was paying $1300 for my LA studio. Now I have a treehouse for $400.”
In one of her many tweets, Gray listed “major benefits” of her move to Bali, which included “safety, low cost of living, luxury lifestyle, queer friendly and Black in Bali community”.
Gray also promoted her e-book, Our Bali Life is Yours, which sells for $US30 ($A39) and includes “direct links to our visa agents and how to get into Indonesia during COVID”.
The thread sparked fury in Bali and throughout Indonesia, with many people criticising Gray for encouraging an influx of Westerners into the country during the pandemic, and raising concerns it would lead to further gentrification of the island at the expense of locals.
Her description of Bali as “queer friendly” also hit a nerve with local members of the LGTBI community in light of growing fears of state-sanctioned homophobia in conservative Indonesia, which introduced a bill last year that would force LGBTI people into conversion therapy.
Others took exception to Gray flaunting her ability to pay $US400 ($A519) a month to rent her house while the average monthly wage in Bali was around $US177 ($A230), according to Coconuts Bali.
However, others on social media said criticism of Gray was driven by the fact she was a Black woman.
Questions had also been raised about whether the couple paid taxes to the Indonesian government, however Gray’s partner Saundra said in a tweet the money they made was in US dollars and they paid taxes to the US government accordingly.
As outrage mounted online, Indonesian immigration authorities confirmed they were looking into the matter.
Gray was found to have a valid visitor permit to stay in the country until later this month, however on Tuesday authorities confirmed she would be deported, pending the next available flight.
In a statement to Coconuts Bali, Jamaruli Manihuruk, who heads the Bali office for Indonesia’s Ministry of Law and Human Rights, said Gray may have violated a number of immigration laws, including “spreading information that could unsettle the public”.
That is understood to be in reference to her comment about Bali being queer friendly and general encouragement of visitors to enter the country during the pandemic.
Indonesia shut down its international border for a second time this month amid a steadily rising number of COVID-19 infections.
“The concerned foreign national is suspected to have done business by selling her e-book and putting up consultation fees on travelling to Bali, which means she can be subject to sanctions according to the 2011 Immigration Law,” Mr Manihuruk said in a statement.
Gray has locked down her Twitter and Instagram accounts in light of the backlash.
She told reporters on Tuesday she had not broken any rules and was being deported because of her comments about LGBTI community.
“I am not guilty, I have not overstayed my visa,” Gray said.
“I have not made money in Indonesian rupiah in Indonesia. I put out a statement about LGBT and I’m being deported because of LGBT.”
Gray has been held at Denpasar’s Immigration Detention Centre awaiting the next flight to the US.