HONIARA (CU)_Just last week, Australia’s spy chief said the federal government is concerned that Chinese police deployed to the Solomon Islands under the new security pact between Beijing and the Pacific archipelago could use “ruthless” techniques against the public similar to that which was used to quell anti-government protests in Hong Kong. Andrew Shearer, the director general of the Office of National Intelligence, noted that such policing techniques and tactics are “completely inconsistent” with “the Pacific way of resolving issues”, as he warned that it could incite further instability and violence in the Solomon Islands. However, Honiara’s envoy to the Australia this week affirmed that this would not be the case.
In an interview with ABC radio on Monday, Solomon Islands High Commissioner to the Trans-Tasman nation, Robert Sisilo, said Chinese police deployed in the islands will be under local command and would be unable to use the heavy-handed tactics similar to that seen in cities like Hong Kong. “We will make sure that things happening in other countries like Hong Kong doesn’t happen in our own country,” he said.
According to Sisilo, the agreement with China is not unlike one shared between Honiara and Canberra. When a state of unrest unfolded in the Solomon Islands in November last year, with thousands of demonstrators carrying out riots in the capital city, more than 70 security personnel were sent from Australia at the request of the islands’ government. “Our prime minister has been saying we are trying to diversify our sources of assistance and in this case, we are looking to China to provide that kind of support, just like Australia and other countries provide the same level of support,” the High Commissioner said.
Nevertheless, Australia and other regional allies remain concerned over the potential for the setting up of a Chinese base in the Solomon Islands, despite Honiara’s repeated denial. While Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare rejects such claims, Sisilo says the government is “on guard” over other deals with China which would give Beijing control over major infrastructure projects.