China protecting its own in Solomons

AS Australia continues to express dismay over the potential establishment by China of a military base in the Solomons Islands, leaders from the Pacific island nation dismiss the negative commentary, insisting that the relationship is a continuation of a long friendship.
China protecting its own in Solomons China protecting its own in Solomons China protecting its own in Solomons China protecting its own in Solomons China protecting its own in Solomons

Chinese lives and property were attacked by looters and rioters in Honiara in November 2021

Karen Galokale, permanent secretary for the Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services in Solomon Islands, told Reuters a cooperation agreement signed between Solomon Islands and China covered policing. She confirmed a wider agreement was being discussed.
 
"Any other arrangement on broad security would be just the same as the Australian agreement," she said in a telephone interview, giving the first public confirmation of the broader security talks. "It will have to go to cabinet."
 
Galokale said she was aware of the social media reports and would not speculate on the timing for the process to approve a security cooperation deal with China.
 
"We have a broad security treaty with Australia and policing cooperation. If there is anything with the Peoples' Republic of China it will be just the same," she said, referring to China.
 
Australia has a bilateral security agreement with Solomon Islands, covering the deployment of police and armed forces, signed in 2018.
 
Galokale said the policing arrangement with China was the same as arrangements Solomon Islands already had with countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
 
Anthony Veke, minister for police in Solomon Islands, said in a statement last week that he had signed a memorandum of understanding with Wang Xiaohong, executive vice minister of China's Ministry of Public Security, on policing cooperation in a virtual meeting on 18 March.
 
"The signing of this MOU simply shows to the global community that we are here building meaningful cooperation, one that is based on teamwork and seriousness to develop Solomon Islands," Veke said.
 
A draft copy of a security memorandum of understanding circulated on social media states it would cover Chinese police, armed police and the military assisting Solomon Islands on social order, disaster response and protecting the safety of Chinese personnel and major projects in Solomon Islands.
 
Australian and New Zealand politicians appear to have overlooked the reason that China wishes to have a police and military presence on the Solomons.
 
It was the Chinese community that was violently attacked when riots began in Honiara in late November 2021, with protesters arriving on the steps of Solomon Islands' national parliament demanding the prime minister's resignation.
 
While initially peaceful, the protests became heated, with some attendees attempting to storm the parliament. 
 
Met with heavy police resistance, which included the use of tear gas, the protest descended into rioting, with several structures - including a building within the parliamentary complex - razed to the ground or looted. Rioters specifically turned their attention to Honiara's Chinatown and many businesses were looted and then set alight.
 
Many of the protesters had arrived from Malaita, the country's most populous island.
 
For two years, tensions between the Malaita Provincial Government and the Solomon Islands' national government, led by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, have been growing.
 
Much of the tension relates to the 2019 decision of Sogavare to extend diplomatic recognition to China - a decision that was deeply unpopular in Solomon Islands.
 
Malaita Province Premier Daniel Suidani has been outspoken in his opposition of the national government's decision to switch to China, and South Pacific geopolitical researcher Ed Cavanough said there was evidence that a relationship between the province and Taiwan remained in some form.
 
Australia sent in peacekeepers at the request of Sogavare and there is still a presence there.
 
Utterances by Australian ministers Peter Dutton and Marise Payne - along with Prime Minister Scott Morrison - have not mentioned the direct attacks on Chinese in November last year.
 
Had the boot been on the other foot, and Australian lives and interests were threatened, Australia would have been the first to, quite correctly, bring down a heavy hand on looters and rioters. And establish a military presence on the island.
 

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