Despite that small number, the minority is resented because of its perceived economic success; many of the nation’s wealthiest tycoons are ethnically Chinese.

The governorship is widely seen as a steppingstone to the presidency, and Islamist efforts to stop Mr. Basuki, a Christian, led to anti-Basuki rallies in the capital that were among the largest protests in recent memory. Though the demonstrations were largely nonviolent, protesters called for Mr. Basuki to be voted down, imprisoned — even killed.

Mr. Basuki, 50, has risen higher than any other Chinese-Indonesian politician since the nation began transitioning to democracy in 1998. He received nationwide attention for exposing corrupt bureaucrats and pushing back against the rise of conservative Islam, including by prohibiting Jakarta public schools from requiring female Muslim students to wear a head scarf.

Head scarves worn by some public school children “look like napkins,” Mr. Basuki said last year when announcing this policy, using language that opponents considered inflammatory.

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Ryan Gozali, a supporter of Basuki Purnama, Jakarta’s ethnically Chinese governor, at a building gutted in 1998 during riots targeting Chinese-Indonesians in Jakarta.

Credit
Kemal Jufri for The New York Times

“Probably the napkins in my kitchen are better,” he said. “The moment they leave school and hop on their dad’s motorbike, they tear them off right away.”

Mr. Basuki’s brash political style — he is on trial on blasphemy allegations after making polarizing remarks about the Quran — has led some prominent Chinese-Indonesians to denounce him for disrupting Indonesia’s delicate ethnic balance.

The tense political situation has contributed to a spike in hate speech toward ethnic Chinese, who tend not to be Muslim. One of the rallies concluded with the looting of stores in a Chinese-dominated Jakarta neighborhood.

Mr. Gozali, like many younger Chinese-Indonesians, wholeheartedly supports Mr. Basuki.

“There will always be danger for the Chinese community here anyway,” Mr. Gozali said. “We may as well have our knight in shining armor.” He argued that Islamist politicians were simply looking for an excuse to bring down an effective minority politician.

Mr. Gozali acknowledged that some Chinese-Indonesians, especially in the older generation, felt differently. “My mom’s friend isn’t voting for Ahok because she’s scared Chinese will be made scapegoats again,” he said.

Indonesia’s Chinese population has a long history of being persecuted. For three decades during the Suharto years, Chinese-Indonesians were accused of being in league with the Chinese government and forbidden to study at Chinese-language schools or publicly celebrate Chinese holidays.

After Suharto, the authoritarian president, fell in 1998, anti-Chinese riots swept cities throughout Sumatra and Java Island, after provocateurs blamed Chinese business interests for Indonesia’s economic crisis.

Then a teenager, Mr. Gozali fled to Singapore in the middle of the night, returning to Indonesia in 2011. “I still have an emotional connection to Indonesia,” he said. “It’s my home no matter what. It’s Ahok who made me believe that again.”

But some Chinese-Indonesians worry that Mr. Basuki’s combative political style is disastrous for their community. Jaya Suprana, 68, a pianist and cultural figure whose father was killed in Indonesia’s 1965 anti-Communist purge, which targeted Chinese-Indonesians, wrote an open letter to Mr. Basuki pleading with him to behave more courteously.

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Jaya Suprana, a pianist and cultural figure, wrote an open letter to Mr. Basuki pleading with him to behave more courteously.

Credit
Kemal Jufri for The New York Times

“Hatred toward Indonesia’s ethnic Chinese hasn’t disappeared,” he wrote, suggesting that Mr. Basuki’s behavior was fanning the flames.

In typical fashion, Mr. Basuki denounced Mr. Jaya as having a “second-class brain,” when the letter was published in 2015.

In an email interview, Mr. Jaya joked that he appreciated that the governor had at least “acknowledged that I have a brain even if it’s only a second-class one.” Mr. Jaya wrote that the governor’s “crude behavior” had the potential “to spark hatred toward everyone who shares Ahok’s ethnicity and religion.”

Tobias Basuki, a researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta, said one reason that Jakarta’s governor was polarizing was that he freely expressed his Chinese cultural identity, whereas most other Chinese-Indonesian politicians were more discreet.

“Ahok seems to be trailblazing for younger Chinese-Indonesians,” Mr. Tobias said. “He’s nationalist while also being Chinese.”

In previous campaigns, Mr. Basuki wore traditional Chinese dress and even referred to ethnic Chinese as being “pork lard-faced” to make light of ethnic differences. “Now, with all the politicking, I’m wondering if that really is the wisest thing,” he added.

Complicating things for Chinese-Indonesians here, the governor’s rise has overlapped with China’s growing assertiveness as a Pacific power.

Dozens of fake news stories have been circulating about China’s negative intentions for Indonesia. Among the claims are that the Chinese government has announced it will invade Indonesia to protect Chinese-Indonesians, and that China is poisoning Indonesians by exporting contaminated chili seeds.

Christine Susanna Tjhin, a senior researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the fake news might be intended to target Chinese-Indonesians even though a majority “are actually quite disconnected from mainland Chinese,” in part because of decades of Suharto government assimilation policies.

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