Australian peacekeepers restore order to the Solomon Islands after anti-China riots

Australian peacekeepers restore order to the Solomon Islands after anti China


Australian peacekeepers have restored order to the Solomon Islands after furious anti-China riots saw buildings set ablaze and shops looted. 

Protesters have left a trail of destruction over the last three days, venting fury at the government’s decision to switch diplomatic ties from Taiwan to China. 

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has blamed foreign powers for encouraging the unrest in the country that is a strategic battleground in the hotly-contested Pacific region.

Sydney dispatched police to the islands to provide security but promised it would not ‘intervene in any way in domestic matters.’ 

It comes as Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton launched a broadside against China for stoking conflict in the Pacific, citing Beijing’s aggression towards Taiwan and attacks on democracy in Hong Kong.

Adding to the tensions, it emerged this week that a Chinese spy ship lurked off the Australian coast for three weeks, passing major military bases. 

Parts of the Chinatown district on fire in Honiara on Solomon Islands on Thursday as rioters torched buildings in the capital in a second day of anti-government protests

Parts of the Chinatown district on fire in Honiara on Solomon Islands on Thursday as rioters torched buildings in the capital in a second day of anti-government protests

Australian Federal Police officers patrolling with local police in Honiara on Friday

Australian Federal Police officers patrolling with local police in Honiara on Friday

Smoke rises from a burnt out buildings in Honiara's Chinatown on Friday

Smoke rises from a burnt out buildings in Honiara’s Chinatown on Friday

‘We’re all familiar with the frequent claims of the Chinese government that it is committed to peace, cooperation and development,’ Dutton said in a speech in Canberra.

‘And yet we bear witness to a significant disconnect between the words and the actions. We’ve watched very closely as the Chinese government has engaged in increasingly alarming activities.’

The Chinese embassy said Dutton had distorted China’s foreign policy, misled the Australian people and was ‘fanning conflict and division between peoples and nations’.

‘It is inconceivable that China-Australia relationship will take on a good momentum… if the Australian government bases its national strategy on such visionless analysis and outdated mentality,’ it said in a statement. 

A night-time curfew has been imposed in the Solomon Islands capital Honiara after tear gas was fired in Chinatown in the capital, Honiara, to stop the looting.

Many of the protesters come from the most populous province Malaita and feel overlooked by the government in Guadalcanal province and oppose its 2019 decision to end diplomatic ties with Taiwan and establish formal links with China.

Malaita premier Daniel Suidani said in a statement this week that Prime Minister Sogavare had ‘elevated the interest of foreigners above those of Solomon Islanders’ and should resign.

‘I feel sorry for my people in Malaita because they are fed with false and deliberate lies about the switch,’ Sogavare told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

‘These very countries that are now influencing Malaita are the countries that don’t want ties with the People’s Republic of China.’

China and Taiwan have been rivals in the South Pacific for decades with some island nations switching allegiances.

China views Taiwan as a wayward province with no right to state-to-state ties, which the government in Taipei hotly disputes.

Only 15 countries maintain formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan. The last two to ditch Taipei in favour of Beijing were the Solomon Islands and Kiribati in September 2019.

A Chinese spy ship was spotted lurking off the Australian coast for three weeks and passing several major military bases (pictured, surveillance ship used by China to monitor the military exercises between Australia and the United States)

A Chinese spy ship was spotted lurking off the Australian coast for three weeks and passing several major military bases (pictured, surveillance ship used by China to monitor the military exercises between Australia and the United States)

The route taken by the Chinese spy ship (above)

The route taken by the Chinese spy ship (above)

Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said in a statement to Reuters: ‘We have nothing to do with the unrest’.

China is concerned about the developments in the Solomon Islands, Zhao Lijiang, a spokesman at the Chinese foreign ministry, told a regular news conference.

‘Facts have proven that the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the Solomon Islands is in line with the fundamental and long-term development of the Solomon Islands,’ Zhao said. ‘Any attempt to undermine the normal development of China-Solomon Islands relations would be futile.’ 

Solomon Island resident Transform Aqorau said more than a hundred people were on Friday looting shops, before Australian Federal Police officers arrived.

‘The scenes here are really chaotic. It is like a war zone,’ Aqorau told Reuters by telephone on Friday morning.

A crowd gathers at Naha Police Station as they defy the lockdown in the capital. The island nation has erupted in anti-Chinese riots so severe Australia has decided to send in troops and police officers

A crowd gathers at Naha Police Station as they defy the lockdown in the capital. The island nation has erupted in anti-Chinese riots so severe Australia has decided to send in troops and police officers

A building prominently displaying three Taiwanese flags (pictured) was left untouched while other shops and businesses were torched in the Solomon Islands as protests rage over the nation's decision to switch diplomatic ties from Taiwan to China

A building prominently displaying three Taiwanese flags (pictured) was left untouched while other shops and businesses were torched in the Solomon Islands as protests rage over the nation’s decision to switch diplomatic ties from Taiwan to China 

Australian Federal Police Special Operations officers head to Honiara as the vanguard of Australia's snap peacekeeping deployment

Australian Federal Police Special Operations officers head to Honiara as the vanguard of Australia’s snap peacekeeping deployment

A fireman walks past a torched hardware store in Honiara. Rioters have targeted shops and businesses in the Chinatown part of the city

A fireman walks past a torched hardware store in Honiara. Rioters have targeted shops and businesses in the Chinatown part of the city

‘There is no public transport and it is a struggle with the heat and the smoke. Buildings are still burning.’

He said later Australian police were ‘taking control of Chinatown’.

Neighbouring Papua New Guinea also sent 35 police and security officers to Honiara on Friday.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Australia was sending 100 police personnel and was ‘clearly focused on stability in our region’.

Australian police were previously deployed to the Solomon Islands in 2003 under a peace keeping mission authorised by a Pacific Island Forum declaration and stayed for a decade.

Severe internal unrest and armed conflict from 1998 to 2003 involved militant groups from Guadalcanal and the neighbouring island of Malaita, and fighting on the outskirts of Honiara.



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