Melbourne, Australia — A riot clashed with police, set fire to buildings, plundered property, and demanded that Prime Minister Manase Sogavale resign, causing protests to shake the Solomon Islands capital for two consecutive days.
Protesters struck parliament on Wednesday, burning police stations and buildings in Chinatown, and then encountered police tear gas and rubber bullets, officials said. More buildings in Chinatown burned on Thursday, according to local news media.
Here’s what we know about protesters’ complaints:
- 1 Who and what is behind the protest?
- 2 How did the Solomon Islands become the focus of the world powers?
- 3 How has the shift in loyalty affected the country?
- 4 What was the fallout from the riot?
- 5 Understanding Sino-US Relations
- 6 How can this be done?
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Who and what is behind the protest?
Many protesters traveled from Malaita to Guadalcanal, the capital of the country, according to officials and local news reports.
According to experts, Malaita is one of the least developed states in the island nation, so it is between the two islands, mainly due to the unequal distribution of resources and lack of financial support. Dissatisfaction has been boiling for decades.
On Malaita, there was also protracted dissatisfaction with the central government’s decision to switch diplomatic loyalty from Taiwan, an autonomous island that China claims to be a territory, to China.
Taiwan’s diplomatic ministry has accused Beijing of bribing Solomon’s politicians to abandon Taipei before the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China under the Communist Party.
How did the Solomon Islands become the focus of the world powers?
The Solomon Islands are an archipelago of about 1,000 islands in the Pacific Ocean, about 1,000 miles northeast of Australia. The island chain has a population of only 650,000 and is mainly farmers and fishermen.
Malaita is the most populous island on the island, with a population of 160,500 last year. Densely forested, mountainous and volcanic, this island is 30 miles northeast of the larger island of Guadalcanal and crosses an essential strait.
The island nation has found a growing geopolitical tug of war due to the 2019 decision that has hit both Taipei’s global status and Washington’s regional diplomacy.
The United States considers the Solomon Islands and other Pacific nations to be crucial in preventing China from claiming influence in the region.
China has made significant investments in the Pacific to warn US authorities. In 2019, a Chinese company signed a contract to lease one of the islands, which was subsequently ruled illegal by the Solomon Islands Attorney General.
How has the shift in loyalty affected the country?
Some experts have drawn a straight line from the 2019 decision to this week’s anxiety.
“There was a great deal of misery about the switch,” said Sinclair Dinnen, an associate professor at the Australian National University’s Pacific Department.
Malaita’s Prime Minister, Daniel Suidani, has voiced criticism of the Prime Minister’s decision, which, contrary to the position of the central government, maintained relations with Taiwan and received support from Taiwan. He continues to be the Lowy Institute and a former Australian diplomat in the Solomon Islands.
He said the US’s provision of direct foreign aid to Malaita deepened the country’s existing destruction while China supported the central government.
“Strategic competition does not cause riots on its own,” Sora said. The country’s deep social and political undercurrents — it has a volatile impact on social cohesion. “
What was the fallout from the riot?
After hundreds of people went out into the streets and set fire to a building near Congress, Sogavale announced a three-day curfew from 7 pm Wednesday to 7 am Friday.
“Today, our country has witnessed another sad and unfortunate event aimed at overthrowing a democratically elected government,” he said in a video speech. He accused him of having a motive.
Understanding Sino-US Relations
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Sogavare also vowed that authorities would find the organizer of the protest and bring it to trial.
According to a statement posted on social media, the Chinese embassy in Honiara has called on authorities to protect Chinese residents.
“We urged the Solomon Islands to take all necessary steps to strengthen the protection of Chinese businesses and personnel,” the embassy said.
He also advised Chinese residents in “high-risk areas” to close their businesses and hire security guards.
How can this be done?
Former Australian diplomat Sora said police seemed to respond “quite well” in countries where public anxiety was not uncommon. He said he had not yet seen any signs that the government could not maintain control.
Before the protests began on Tuesday, a group of Malaita parliamentarians instigated Mr. Suidani and the protest leaders to “engage the Malaitas in illegal activities” as the Malaitas began to gather in the capital. Please refrain from doing that. “
They also urged opposition lawmakers to “refrain from inflaming the flames of violence and agitation.”
But by Thursday, 16 buildings in Chinatown had been destroyed by fire, according to Nathan Loser, a researcher at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. He reached that number by cross-referencing video and photos of the scene with a map of the area.
A video posted on social media showed that a large number of people were gathering in Chinatown as smoke swirled from the building.
Dr. Dinen said other individuals and groups were involved in protests for a variety of reasons.
He said political opposition tactics and opportunistic riots to leave the government contributed to the size of the crowd.