Australia is deploying forces to the Solomon Islands in an effort to squelch violent “anti-China riots” that are undermining the stability and security of the island nation’s 690,000 inhabitants.
“Rioters torch buildings and loot the smoldering rubble of shops in the Solomon Islands’ capital of Honiara, a third straight day of political violence as Australian peacekeeping troops begin to deploy,” AFP reported. The Solomon Islands implemented lockdowns to try to stop the violence, but they have failed.
While the Associated Press reported that it was not immediately clear what triggered the riots, Bloomberg News and The Washington Post reported that the riots were directly tied to the island nation’s decision to switch allegiances from Taiwan to communist China.
Bloomberg News, which called the riots “anti-China riots,” explained:
The spat is centered around two main islands about 110 kilometers (70 miles) apart with a history of clashing: Guadalcanal, which holds the capital Honiara, and Malaita, the most-populous isle with a third of the nation’s 650,000 people. Daniel Suidani, who leads Malaita, has been a vocal critic of the decision to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of Beijing, which opened an embassy in Honiara last year. …
Police this week used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse about 1,000 anti-China protesters who were demanding Sogavare’s resignation in the capital of Honiara, the ABC reported, while the Solomon Islands Herald reported that protesters looted and damaged shops in the city’s Chinatown and marched to the Chinese embassy.
“The injection of funds in a small country has been hugely significant, especially compared to what it was receiving from Taiwan,” said Mihai Sora, a former Australian diplomat who was based in the Solomons and who is now an expert in Pacific geopolitics for the Lowy Institute research group. “Honiara is awash in stories that since Beijing has taken this interest in the Solomon Islands, the money flowing to parliamentarians outside of formal development packages has increased substantially. The character of that relationship has become more brazen.”
VIDEO: Plumes of thick black smoke billow high as rioters torch buildings in the Solomon Islands' capital of Honiara Thursday, targeting the city's Chinatown district in a second day of anti-government protests. of fire and smoke rising pic.twitter.com/EwC7PTfEdS
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) November 25, 2021
Australia said it will deploy more than 100 police and military personnel to the Solomon Islands as protesters in the Pacific nation defied a government-imposed lockdown and set fire to buildings in the capital Honiara for a second day https://t.co/RuYqDZcVWI pic.twitter.com/DEH0eEjlHZ
— Reuters (@Reuters) November 25, 2021
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare claimed that the island switching its loyalties to China was “the only issue” behind the riots.
“Unfortunately, it is influenced and encouraged by other powers,” he claimed. “I don’t want to name names, we’ll leave it there — we know who they are.”
He claimed that the “very countries that are now influencing Malaita are the countries that don’t want ties with the People’s Republic of China and they are discouraging Solomon Islands to enter into diplomatic relations and to comply with international law and the United Nations resolution.”
Australia pledged to send 120 soldiers and police officers to help stabilize the situation while the island works to resolve its own issues.
“Our purpose here is to provide stability and security to enable the normal constitutional processes in the Solomon Islands,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at a news conference on Thursday. “It is not the Australian government’s intention in any way to intervene in the internal affairs of the Solomon Islands. That is for them to resolve.”