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Parts of the Chinatown district in Honiara were ablaze after rioters torched buildings in the Solomon Islands capital on November 25 during anti-government protests. Photo: AFP

China’s foreign minister blames ‘forces with ulterior motives’ for Solomon Islands riots

  • In their first exchange since the violence erupted last month, foreign ministers from Beijing and Honiara talked up their nations’ relationship
  • Wang Yi said China would support the Solomons to restore order, rebuild and reach stable development
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has accused “forces with ulterior motives” of inciting riots in the Solomon Islands last month, which have been blamed in part on discontent with China.
Wang made the remarks during the first official exchange with his counterpart in the Pacific Islands country after the unrest in late November, when the Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare was accused of using money from a national development fund that comes from China. Sogavare has rejected allegations of corruption.


Solomon Islands riot sets Chinatown ablaze in capital Honiara as protests turn violent

Solomon Islands riot sets Chinatown ablaze in capital Honiara as protests turn violent

“The riots erupted under a complicated background. Some forces with ulterior motives took the chance to smear China-Solomon Islands relations and attempted to subvert the outcomes achieved since the establishment of our bilateral ties. It does not comply with the interest of Solomon Islands’ people at all and is doomed to fail,” Wang said in a phone conversation on Thursday, according to a readout from China’s foreign ministry.

Wang said China was confident in the future of its bilateral relations and would take “measures to support and assist Solomon Islands in restoring order and reconstruction, and achieving stable development”.

China and the Solomon Islands established official bilateral relations when the Solomons switched its allegiance to Beijing from Taiwan in September 2019.

Solomon Islands politician calls for switch in ties back to Taiwan

The riots have raised the alarm on how Pacific nations are reacting to Beijing’s efforts to poach the few remaining diplomatic allies of Taiwan, a self-ruled island which China sees as a breakaway province.

“At the moment, both countries need to be vigilant against a few countries’ attempts to constantly interfere in other countries’ domestic affairs in the name of human rights under the Cold War mentality, and jointly uphold the basic norms of international relations and international fairness and justice,” Wang said, using a common Chinese reference to US-led Western efforts to raise human rights concerns in China.

Solomon Islands’ Minister of Foreign Affairs Jeremiah Manele was quoted in the Chinese readout as extending condolences for the property losses suffered by Chinese citizens during the riots.

“Solomon Islands highly values its relations with China. It will continue strictly abiding by the one-China policy, which is the political basis of developing Solomon Islands-China relations,” Manele was quoted as saying.


Australian troops and police deployed to Solomon Islands amid general unrest and Chinatown blaze

Australian troops and police deployed to Solomon Islands amid general unrest and Chinatown blaze

After the diplomatic switch, Washington said it would reassess its help to the Solomon Islands.

In a statement on Monday addressing the unrest, the US ambassador to Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, Erin McKee, said US aid contractors worked in partnership with communities to build local infrastructure, such as roads, and maintain it “without outside help”.

“Do you want aid that benefits one person, one party and one bank account? Or do you want assistance that empowers entire families, strengthens entire communities and enriches entire nations?” she said.

“As democratic and independent states, you have a choice of who to partner with. And I believe that the choice is obvious.”


Taiwan severs ties with Solomon Islands

Taiwan severs ties with Solomon Islands
In the protests that broke out on November 24, dozens of buildings were burnt down and shops looted in the Chinatown neighbourhood of Honiara, the Solomons’ capital.

There have been strong voices of opposition accusing Sogavare of taking money from the country’s National Development Fund which has been backed by Beijing since the diplomatic switch took place under Sogavare.

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Sogavare has blamed foreign powers that opposed his 2019 decision to switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing for influencing anti-government protesters from Malaita province.

Meanwhile, the cause of the violence has been multifold, according to regional observers. Many widely attribute it to lingering resentment about Beijing’s influence in local politics and the economy, particularly in Malaita province, which has rejected ties with Beijing since the country’s diplomatic recognition switch.

As well as protests against corruption, there were voices of discontent over unemployment and informal settlements, or slums, leading up to the violence.