Chinese police officers and equipment will soon be sent to the Solomon Islands to help ease months of civil unrest, a move that is already causing concern to Australian authorities.
- Solomon Islands government says there is an “urgent” need to strengthen its police force
- Australia sent police and defense force members to the troubled country last month
- Defense sources have told ABC they believe the Solomon Islands is the first country to accept Chinese help for domestic policing
On Thursday, the besieged government of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogaware announced that it would accept Beijing’s offer of aid to strengthen its anti-riot policing capabilities.
In a statement the government said it was “conscious of the urgent need to strengthen the capacity of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force and its ability to respond to future unrest”.
“The government will accept the People’s Republic of China’s offer of riot equipment and six police liaison officers to equip and train the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force with a skill set that appreciates the training received under existing bilateral assistance,” the statement said. has agreed to do so.”
Last month 73 Australian Federal Police and 43 Australian Defense Force personnel were sent to the troubled Pacific nation after days of riots against Mr Sogaware’s government.
The decision by the Solomon Islands to switch diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China in 2019 is one of the factors responsible for unhappiness with the Pacific nation’s government.
Mr Sogaware has blamed “external factors” for the recent unrest in his country and the premier of Malaita province, Daniel Suidani, has been vocal in his opposition to the national government’s decision to back Beijing instead of Taipei.
After the November riots, the federal government was relieved that the first call for help came from Canberra rather than Beijing, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison insisted Australia was taking no part in “the internal issues of the Solomon Islands”.
Defense and diplomatic sources have told the ABC that they believe the Solomon Islands is the first government in the Pacific to accept this level of Chinese help for anti-riot specifically for domestic policing, and there are concerns that in the future more assistance will be sought from Beijing.
Australia’s police-led deployment to the Solomon Islands has been gradually reduced in recent days, but 40 AFP members, 15 ADF personnel and three Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) personnel remain there.
“Australia welcomes a return to Honiara,” a DFAT spokesperson told ABC.
“We will always support our Prashant family in meeting the challenges, this is the right thing to do.
“The entire mission of the Australian Government is adjusting its currency to meet the operational needs of the Solomon Islands.”
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Beijing was helping the Solomon Islands respond to “serious” anti-government riots.
“At the request of the Solomon Islands government, 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.
“Chinese supplies and personnel will soon reach the Solomon Islands and are expected to play a constructive role in enhancing the capacity of the Solomon Islands Police.
“China strongly supports the Government of the Solomon Islands in defending the stability of the country, the relations between China and the Solomon Islands and the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens there, and will refrain from any illegal and violent action.” Strongly condemns.”
The Australian government has yet to respond directly to the Solomon Islands’ decision to accept Chinese police aid.