More than 100 shops in capital Honiara’s Chinatown area attacked by protesters, says official.
ISTANBUL (AA) – As Australian soldiers and cops take charge to restore normalcy in the Solomon Islands, reports have emerged of losses incurred by Chinese citizens and businesses targeted in days of unrest.
Protests calling for Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s resignation have turned violent in various areas of the capital Honiara over the past two days.
While the government believes the protests are linked to its 2019 decision to shift diplomatic relations to China from Taiwan, critics say the unrest has been spurred by a lack of development and discontent over corruption.
Chinese state-run daily Global Times reported on Friday that shops run by Chinese nationals were “smashed, burned and looted and their personal safety [was] in jeopardy.”
Tan Jingquan, secretary of the Solomon Islands Chinese Association, said more than 100 shops in the capital’s Chinatown area have suffered heavy damage.
However, there had been no reports by Thursday evening of any Chinese nationals being physically injured.
A police station and a school building were also torched in Honiara.
Almost 3,000 Chinese citizens live and work in the Solomon Islands, with 90% of them based in Honiara. Some of them have asked authorities to evacuate them to China.
Sogavare, who has blamed “foreign powers” for the unrest, has refused to step down, terming the riots a “sad and unfortunate event aimed at bringing down a democratically elected government.”
The demonstrators who have descended on the capital are mostly from Malaita province, which is the country’s most populous region governed by Daniel Suidani, a strong opponent of the shift of diplomatic relations to Beijing.
On Sogavare’s request, Australia sent 23 police officers on Thursday evening to help control the spiraling violence, while 70 soldiers arrived on Friday, according to local journalist Georgina Kekea.
China has voiced support for the prime minister, saying it is “confident that … the government of Solomon Islands can restore social order and stability soon.”
“The establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the Solomon Islands is the right choice, which conforms to the trend of the times and will also stand the test of history; bilateral exchanges have yielded achievements and any attempt to disrupt it is futile,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson on Thursday.