The Communist Party of China requested that a 10-person civilian-dressed security dispatch be allowed to enter the Solomon Islands late last year. According to a leaked document acquired by The Guardian, the security personnel were armed with pistols, rifles, machine guns, and a sniper rifle.
In the leaked document, dated December 3, 2021, the Chinese government requested that their security dispatch be allowed to enter the Solomons to guard the Chinese embassy in Honiara.
“The government of the People’s Republic of China has decided to send a plainclothes security team (10 personnel) with necessary light weapons and equipment to the Chinese Embassy in Solomon Islands. The team will be responsible for internal security and necessary escort missions outside of the Chinese Embassy,” the memo wrote.
Last November, protests broke out in the Solomon Islands, which resulted in days of rioting and looting. The parliament building and a nearby police station were attacked during the protests, as well as several Chinese-owned businesses in the capital’s Chinatown.
— DAILY SABAH (@DailySabah) November 26, 2021
These riots were caused partly by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s pivot from backing Taiwan to supporting China, but other issues such as economic deprivation and tension between the country’s two large provinces were also to blame. Solomon’s pivot to China was conveniently followed by a donation of $8.5 million in development funds from China.
“The request stemmed from the recent three days of from [sic] 24-26 November riots of which Solomon Islands Chinese community faced the brunt of the looting and violence amongst other business houses,” Solomon Islands’ Foreign Ministry, Permanent Secretary Collin Beck wrote in the memo.
According to the document, Beck agreed to let the Chinese detachment enter the country without any objections.
“My Ministry during the period could not guarantee the safety of the Embassy and staff. As host country, we had an obligation to protect all Embassies, including [the] Chinese Embassy. In this regard, we have no objection to the request.”
The request indicated that the Chinese security detail would bring weapons and equipment, including “10 9mm pistols, 10 rifles, two machine guns, and a sniper rifle, as well as other equipment including radios, satellite phones, infrared thermal cameras, 10 daggers, 10 electric batons, an electronic listening device, gas masks, and metal detectors.”
The detachment planned to stay in the Solomons for six to twelve months, but independent sources were unable to confirm the arrival of the team in the capital city of Honiara.
Beck noted that China was a special case as public opinion was heavily against the Chinese during that time.
Leaked Documents Verified
The Solomon Islands government has already confirmed the legitimacy of the leaked document in a statement. They warned, “against fake news or misinterpreted commentaries on social media forums following leaked documents containing official correspondences between the Solomon Islands Government and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Embassy in Honiara.”
According to the statement, the Ministries involved in the leaked documents are expected to release an official statement sometime in the future. It encouraged social media figures not to be “emotionally swayed” by the leaks and wait for the official release before making conclusions.
The Solomon Islands Government said that it expects more “fear-mongering, lies and propaganda will be forthcoming from people who are hell-bent on creating instability for their own interests.”
“There is nothing to be concerned about,” it further stated.
The Solomon Island’s Geopolitical Predicament
The Solomons have been the centerpiece of recent geopolitical events. Just last week, another leaked document of a draft security agreement between the Solomon Islands and China caught the attention of opposition leaders and Western regional powers.
The leak caused fears of a possible Chinese military base in the Western Pacific. The Sogavare administration dispelled concerns saying that it is well aware of the consequences of such a move. However, the leaked security agreement between the two countries did include provisions that may potentially allow Beijing to operate military bases in the Solomons. However, the Sogavare administration denies this.
“Government is conscious of the security ramification of hosting a military base, and it will not be careless to allow such initiative to take place under its watch,” a statement said.
Sovagare’s shift to cozy up with China is part of his foreign policy diversification which intends to balance out the influence of regional powers on the Islands. However, the move has been largely criticized by opposition leaders and their supporters.
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