Violence and riots continued in the Solomon Islands for the third straight day despite the arrival of Australian peacekeepers and the end of a 36-hour lockdown imposed by the government. The first elements of what will eventually be a force of 120 Australian federal police officers are on the ground in the Solomon Islands. On Friday morning, however, there was no sign of the officers on the streets as the violence flared up. Later in the day, Australian peacekeepers did become visible in certain neighborhoods.
The violence started on Wednesday in the capital city of Honiara when hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the national parliament building and demanded the resignation of Manasseh Sogavare. The demonstration rapidly became a riot. Protesters torched a police station and many buildings in the Chinatown section of the city.
Geopolitical tension is the primary cause of the unrest in the Solomon Islands. In 2019, the islands shifted allegiance from Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China. The move came at Sogavare’s direction and was very unpopular with many islanders. As time went on, frustration with the alignment with the People’s Republic came to head, resulting in this latest round of violence.
The drama playing out in the Solomons shows the growing influence of China in the South Pacific. This region has been traditionally set within the Australian and American spheres of influence for generations. China’s arrival on the scene, so to speak, is sparking tensions and fanning flames of unrest, which could help Beijing realize its long term designs for region.