Protesters burned down several buildings in the capital of Las Solomon Islands, Honiara, on the second day of unrest against the Chinese government and community, which led Australia to announce the deployment of peacekeepers at the request of the government.
Eyewitnesses and local media indicated that a crowd defied the government-ordered lockdown and took to the streets. Live footage showed several buildings on fire, with plumes of smoke rising into the sky.
On the eve, hundreds of protesters already burned buildings, including a police station, and tried to storm Parliament to overthrow the prime minister Manasseh Sogavare.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Thursday a new deployment of military and police forces to maintain peace in this archipelago some 1,500 km from its northeastern coast.
“Our purpose here is to provide stability and security”Morrison said, indicating that he had received a request for assistance from his Solomonian counterpart Sogavare.
The prime minister of the small archipelago claimed on Thursday at the head of the nation and lamented “a sad and unfortunate event that seeks to overthrow a democratically elected government.”
Most of the protesters in Honiara come from the neighboring island of Malaita, whose locals complain about feeling ignored by the government and oppose its 2019 decision to shift diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China.
Business managed by the Chinese community of Honiara were looted and burned, prompting the Beijing embassy to express its “grave concerns” to the government of Solomon and to ask to “strengthen the protection” of their companies and staff.
The government decreed a curfew for 36 hoursBut protesters challenged him on Thursday with fresh riots targeting police and businesses in the capital’s Chinatown.
“There are crowds moving, it is very tense”A resident told AFP, while local media spoke of looting and the use of tear gas by the police.
Other witnesses posted images on social media with smoke rising above the capital and allegedly Chinese-owned businesses that were targeted.
Numerous communities in Malaita had forged close ties with Taipei and its authorities have repeatedly criticized the move towards China, rejecting aid projects funded by Beijing.
This archipelago of 700,000 inhabitants, which became independent from the United Kingdom in 1978, suffered inter-ethnic violence since the early 2000s.
These rivalries led to the deployment between 2003 and 2017 of a peacekeeping force led by Australia.
The capital Honiara experienced severe unrest after the 2006 elections in which the Chinatown district (Chinatown) was razed amid rumors that businesses linked to Beijing had rigged the vote.