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Honiara’s Chinatown targeted as violent protests break out for second day in Solomon Islands

Protesters reportedly from neighbouring island, which opposed government’s 2019 decision to switch allegiance from Taiwan to China
Honiara’s Chinatown targeted as violent protests break out for second day in Solomon Islands

Protesters reportedly from neighbouring island, which opposed government’s 2019 decision to switch allegiance from Taiwan to China

Aftermath of the riots in Honiara, Solomon Islands.

Fresh protests have broken out in Solomon Islands’ capital Honiara, witnesses have said, a day after demonstrators attempted to storm parliament and topple prime minister Manasseh Sogavare.

The Australian government said on Thursday it would send a peacekeeping force to the country despite Sogavare saying his government was still in control.

“Today I stand before you to inform you all that our country is safe - your government is in place and continues to lead our nation,” Sogavare said, adding that those responsible “will face the full brunt of the law”.

Protesters defied a 36-hour lockdown imposed in the wake of Wednesday’s unrest and again took to the streets on Thursday targeting police and businesses in the capital’s Chinatown area, a Honiara resident told AFP.

The man, who did not want to be named, said police had erected roadblocks but the protests showed no sign of abating more than 24 hours after erupting outside parliament.

“There’s mobs moving around, it’s very tense,” he said, as local media reported looting and police using teargas.

Resurgence of unrest in the Solomons fuelled, in part, by lingering animosity towards Chinese businesses and the 2019 decision to switch diplomatic allegiances from Taiwan to China.

Solomons capital under curfew after protesters target parliament - @AFPhttps://t.co/DzSYoluqSI

— Jerome Taylor (@JeromeTaylor) November 25, 2021

Other witnesses posted images on social media of smoke rising from the capital and said Chinese-owned businesses were being targeted, prompting Beijing’s embassy to express “serious concerns” to the Solomons’ government.

“[The embassy] made representations requesting the Solomon Islands to take all necessary measures to strengthen the protection of Chinese enterprises and personnel,” it said in a statement.

The latest disturbance came after several hundred demonstrators torched buildings, including a police station, and looted stores on Wednesday after marching on parliament to demand Sogavare’s resignation.

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Sogavare ordered an immediate curfew across Honiara, set to run until 7am on Friday, describing the unrest as a “sad and unfortunate event aimed at bringing a democratically elected government down”.

Most of the protesters in Honiara are reportedly from the neighbouring island of Malaita.

No peace yet in Honiara. Sad time. All spoken to wants PM to step down inorder for peace to return. More looting and burning. Am standing from afar pic.twitter.com/w2zDbcy35d

— Georgina Kekea (@ginakekea) November 25, 2021

People on the island have long complained of neglect by central government and strongly opposed the Solomons’ decision to switch diplomatic allegiances from Taiwan to China in 2019.

Opposition leader Matthew Wale called for Sogavare to step down, saying the unrest would not be quelled by a police-enforced lockdown.

“Regrettably, frustrations and pent up anger of the people against the prime minister are spilling uncontrollably over on to the streets, where opportunists have taken advantage of the already serious and deteriorating situation,” he said in a statement obtained by AFP.

“The 36-hour lockdown is yet another reactionary response that is not the solution to the current situation.”

Topics
  • Solomon Islands
  • The Pacific project
  • Asia Pacific
  • Pacific islands
  • news
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