Solomon Islands

China weighs in on Solomons violence

China said Friday it condemned rioting in the Solomon Islands and would ensure the safety of its citizens there, after a third day of protests against the Pacific nation’s pro-Beijing leader.

“China… condemns the violence that has caused severe damage and property losses,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters, adding Beijing will “safeguard the safety and legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens and institutions”.

The explosion of violence is partly a result of frustrations at Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s government, as well as long-running animosity between residents of the country’s most populous island Malaita and the central government.

solomon islands unrest riots
People walk through the Chinatown district of Honiara on the Solomon Islands on November 26, 2021, after a third day of violence that saw the prime minister’s home come under attack and swathes of the city reduced to smouldering ruins.
Charley Piringi / AFP

Malaita residents have long complained that their island is neglected by the central government — and divisions intensified when Sogavare abruptly switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing instead of Taiwan in 2019.

The struggle for influence between China and Taiwan in the Pacific has long been fought out on the islands, which have a small Chinese community.

The latest violence in the capital Honiara was reportedly started by protesters who travelled from Malaita with locals then joining in.

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Chinese businesses have been attacked by rioters and looters in the past, and the capital’s Chinatown district was targeted this week.

Zhao said on Friday that the “establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the Solomon Islands conforms to the trend of the times and is a correct choice that can stand the test of history”.

Since diplomatic ties were established, he said relations between the two had made “remarkable progress” while “practical cooperation in various fields has yielded fruitful results”.

© Agence France-Presse

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