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Soloman Islands protests continue over China relations

Demonstrators in capital city up in arms over nation's switch in relations from Taipei to Beijing

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Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare. (Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Demonstrations continued in Honiara, the capital city of the Solomon Islands, for a second day on Thursday (Nov. 25) as protestors set fire to Parliament and buildings in the local Chinatown.

The protests erupted due to objections over domestic development priorities and the country’s decision to switch diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China, the Washington Post reported. Hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the national Parliament building on Wednesday morning, demanding Sogavare step down.

As a result of the escalating situation, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare requested help from Australia, which agreed to send approximately 120 soldiers and police officers to maintain peace.

In a national address on Wednesday, Sogavare said the riots are a “sad and unfortunate event aimed at bringing a democratically elected government down.” She imposed a 36-hour lockdown in Honiara, per the Washington Post.

The report noted that many of the protesters came from Malaita, the most populous island in the South Pacific nation, to join the demonstrations in Honiara, located on the island of Guadalcanal.

Relations between the two islands have been extremely tense after the national government switched recognition from Taiwan to China in 2019. Malaita Premier Daniel Suidani opposed the move and claimed Sogavare had been offered bribes to ally with Beijing.

Suidani vowed Malaita would never cooperate with China and nullified licenses of businesses owned by ethnic Chinese, a move that received an admonishment from the national government. The divide grew even more apparent in May when Suidani flew to Taiwan for medical treatment without permission from Honiara.

On Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian (趙立堅) said that China is keeping a close eye on developments in the archipelagic country and supported the government’s efforts to prevent the protests from turning more violent. Any attempt to disrupt relations between China and the Solomon Islands will be futile, the Washington Post cited him as saying.