Communist Chinese ‘riot police’ and equipment will soon be sent to Solomon Islands to help the embattled government defuse months of civil unrest, prompting concern from U.S. and Australian officials.
The 2019 decision by the Solomon Islands government of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to switch diplomatic allegiances from Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) sparked widespread disapproval and recent civil unrest in the strategic Pacific island nation ostensibly allied to the United States and Australia.
The unrest has grown to include days of rioting in November. Sogavare has blamed “external factors” for the dramatic unrest, but it appears to be homegrown anger. Daniel Suidani, the Premier of Malaita Province, for example has been extremely vocal in his opposition to Sogavare’s decision to back Beijing rather than Taipei.
Initially the Solomon Islands asked for help from Australia, and Canberra sent 73 Australian Federal Police and 43 Australian Defense Force personnel to the troubled Pacific nation.
However, on Thursday, Sogavare’s besieged government announced it would accept Beijing’s offer of assistance to strengthen its anti-riot policing capabilities.
In a statement reported by Australia’s ABC news, the government said it was “mindful of the urgent need to strengthen Royal Solomon Islands Police Force capability and capacity to respond to future unrest.”
“The government has agreed to accept the Peoples’ Republic of China’s offer of riot equipment and six Police Liaison Officers to equip and train Royal Solomon Islands Police Force with the skill sets complimenting ongoing training received under existing bilateral assistance,” it said.
According to ABC news:
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Beijing was helping Solomon Islands respond to “grave” anti-government riots.
“At the request of the government of Solomon Islands, China will provide a batch of emergency riot equipment for the police and send an ad-hoc police advisory team,” he told reporters on Thursday.
Diplomatic sources believe Solomon Islands is the first government in the Pacific to accept this level of Chinese ‘anti-riot’ help for domestic policing. This is prompting serious concerns that more assistance like this will be sought from Beijing in the future, giving the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) a repressive paramilitary foothold on the islands.
Australia’s police-led deployment to Solomon Islands has been gradually reduced, but 40 AFP members, 15 ADF personnel still remain there.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said it was aware that China was sending reinforcements.
“We are aware of China’s expected engagement in the security sector in Honiara. This is a matter for the Solomon Islands government.”
Yes, but it is also a serious concern for all the democratic islands and nations of the Pacific. ADN