How the China-Taiwan issue led to riots and looting in this island nation

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Solomon Islands: Angry riots have left buildings ablaze in the Solomon Islands capital.

Honiara, Solomon Islands:

The angry riots that left buildings burned on Thursday in the Solomon Islands capital are the latest surge in tensions in two decades in the Pacific nation that have often trapped Chinese companies.

The recipe for the crisis is a complex mix of youth unemployment, anger over anti-coronavirus controls, historic rivalries between the islands and a lingering dispute over whether Solomon Islands should have transferred diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China.

Here are key facts to help explain the events:

” The tensions “

The Solomon Islands have struggled with inter-island tensions and political violence since gaining independence from Britain in 1978.

The origins of the latest crisis can be traced back to a period of civil unrest between 1998 and 2003 known as “The Tensions”.

Residents of the main island of Guadalcanal had come to feel the influence of settlers from other islands, especially Malaita, the most populous province.

Guadalcanal activists launched attacks on settlers in 1998, giving way to five years of sectarian unrest that brought the country to its knees.

Peace was finally restored in 2003 by the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) made up of troops and police from Australia, New Zealand and 15 Pacific contributing countries.

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RAMSI maintained a presence until 2017, but even after they left the tensions were never far below the surface.

2006 Chinatown Riots

Riots broke out in April 2006 after Snyder Rini was elected Prime Minister by lawmakers. Dozens of businesses owned by ethnic Chinese have been looted and set on fire in the capital Honiara.

Local resentment had built up against the domination of leading figures in the foreign business world – mainly ethnic Chinese from Taiwan, China, Malaysia and the Philippines – as well as anger over corruption, inequality and exploitation. Resource.

Chinese companies have been targeted in part because of allegations that they and Taiwan – which at the time had diplomatic ties with Honiara – helped fund Rini to bribe lawmakers to back the vote on Prime Minister.

China had to charter planes to evacuate its citizens. Australia and New Zealand have sent peacekeepers to quell the unrest.

Diplomatic changeover and riots 2019

In 2019, the historic rivalry between Guadalcanal and Malaita converged with international geopolitics when veteran politician Manasseh Sogavare was elected prime minister, sparking another round of violent protests.

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One of Sogavare’s campaign platforms was to transfer diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China, which he did five months later.

Taiwan and China have been engaged for years in a diplomatic standoff in developing countries, with economic support and other aids often used as bargaining chips for diplomatic recognition.

The change in Sogavare paved the way for the release of huge amounts of Chinese investment, but it was far from unanimous, especially in Malaita where residents had benefited from Taiwanese aid projects and maintained close ties with Taipei.

A plan to lease an entire island to a Chinese state-owned company – announced just days after the diplomatic change – quickly had to be scrapped because it was deeply unpopular.

Building a new crisis

The political violence that has exploded this week is a continuation of all of the above.

Writing in the Solomon Times, Transform Aqorau described it as “the culmination of a number of hot spots that have been ignored,” citing the China-Taiwan split, as well as tensions between the national and provincial governments.

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Local reports indicate that many protesters in Honiara this week had come from Malaita, where anger was growing over the perceived lack of investment from the central government and the decision to abandon Taiwan as an ally.

“It was a planned peaceful protest … What happened is that the tensions spilled over,” Mihai Sora, Pacific expert at Australia’s Lowy Institute, told TBEN.

Malaita Prime Minister Daniel Suidani strongly criticized the transfer of diplomatic recognition to Beijing.

Suidani has maintained ties with Taiwan, in defiance of instructions from the central government, Sora said. Earlier this year, he was treated at a hospital in Taiwan.

Nicholas Coppel, former Australian ambassador and RAMSI special coordinator, told TBEN that most of the Solomons’ grievances “stem from a feeling of inequality in the distribution of resources.”

“The majority of the people of Solomon Islands lead a semi-subsistence life in rural areas with little regard for foreign policy decisions.”

“However, they are concerned about the end of the projects on Malaita that Taiwan once funded and the preference that China gives to sports facilities concentrated in Honiara,” he added.

(This story was not edited by The Bharat Express News on Social Platforms.)

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