Solomon Islands: Situation of ethnic Chinese; current country conditions (2005-2007)
|Publisher||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa|
|Publication Date||15 October 2007|
|Citation / Document Symbol||SLB102636.E|
|Cite as||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Solomon Islands: Situation of ethnic Chinese; current country conditions (2005-2007), 15 October 2007, SLB102636.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47d65477c.html [accessed 30 August 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Estimates on the number of ethnic Chinese people in the Solomon Islands range from roughly 500 (Moore 5 May 2006) to 2,000 (Le Figaro 20 Apr. 2006), depending on the number of persons with mixed backgrounds who are counted (Moore 5 May 2006). According to the People's Republic of China, in April 2006 there were over 400 ethnic Chinese living in the capital city of Honiara, of whom over 180 were Chinese citizens (China 21 Apr. 2006).
Clive Moore, an assistant professor of history at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, who has written extensively on the history of the Solomon Islands (University of Queensland 5 Sept. 2007), describes the community as being divided between the "'Old' Chinese [who] prospered under the later decades of the British administration," and the "New" Chinese, who arrived in the late 1980s and 1990s, and who are less integrated into the local society (Moore 5 May 2006). According to Moore, while some indigenous Solomon Islanders continue to harbour some resentment towards the "economic hold" of segments of the small Chinese community, they differentiate between the "Old" Chinese, who are accepted as part of Solomon Islander society, and the "New" Chinese, who are not (ibid., 2), although this point could not be corroborated among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
April 2006 riots
On 18 April 2006, violence erupted in Honiara following the election of Snyder Rini as Prime Minister, whom some believed had bought votes with help from Taiwan and from members of the local Chinese community (Le Figaro 20 Apr. 2006). Over the next two days, hundreds of rioters took to the streets of the Chinese district, setting fires and looting shops (ibid.). As a result, Chinatown was reportedly destroyed (ibid.; BBC 20 Apr. 2006) by up to 90 percent (Pacnews 19 Apr. 2007). Approximately 500 ethnic Chinese people were forced to relocate to the Solomon Islands police headquarters for temporary shelter, with the assistance of the Chinese Embassy in Papua New Guinea (Xinhua 20 Apr. 2006). The local Red Cross cared for the dozens of Chinese families that were forced to flee their homes (BBC 20 Apr. 2006; Solomon Islands 19 Apr. 2006). While some ethnic Chinese people were injured in the violence, there were no reported fatalities (China 21 Apr. 2006; US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 5).
By 25 April 2006, the Chinese government had airlifted 325 of its citizens to China (Xinhua 25 Apr. 2006). Moore notes that rioters avoided "[p]rominent 'Old' Chinese-owned stores" during their attacks on Chinatown (Moore 5 May 2006). However, many people in the Chinese community reportedly "lost everything they owned" in the rioting (SIBC 1 July 2006). According to Moore, many Chinese-owned businesses were not insured or were not covered in case of riots (Moore 5 May 2006).
Moore indicates that the April 2006 riots were poorly handled by local authorities who should have taken note of the "clues" suggesting that trouble was forthcoming (ibid., 2). According to Moore, "the actual success of the riots is owed to the incompetence of the RAMSI police" (ibid., 12), the sixteen-nation Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), which is responsible for policing the islands (RAMSI 19 July 2006).
The government of the Solomon Islands imposed a curfew and police managed to evacuate guests from the Taiwanese-built Pacific Casino Hotel (Le Figaro 20 Apr. 2006), which rioters later "reduced to rubble" (Moore 5 May 2006). On 20 April 2006, Australia deployed 180 soldiers and police to restore and maintain calm in Honiara (China 21 Apr. 2006; Le Figaro 20 Apr. 2006).
Aftermath of the April 2006 riots
In July 2006, the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC) reported that the Taiwanese government had donated 800,000 Solomon Islands' dollars [1 Solomon Islands' dollar = 0.14 Canadian dollars (XE.com 5 Oct. 2007)] to help the Chinese victims of the April riots (1 July 2006). The SIBC cites the Chairman of the Solomon Islands' Chinese Association, Sam Chan, as indicating that the money would not be distributed to individual victims but would instead be used to rebuild the infrastructure that was damaged or destroyed during the riots (SIBC 1 July 2006).
Several months after the April 2006 riots, the Chairman of the Solomon Islands' Chamber of Commerce, Peter Goodwin, was quoted as suggesting that some Chinese merchants should learn from the example of "longer-entrenched merchants" about investing in the local economy and helping the indigenous people rather than sending their profits offshore (Radio New Zealand International 27 Nov. 2006).
A year after the April 2006 riots, no rebuilding of Honiara's Chinatown had reportedly taken place: the Australian Associated Press (AAP) suggested that Chinese businessmen remained reluctant to invest in their former commercial district because of fears of new rioting (17 Apr. 2007). According to the Pacific News Agency Service (Pacnews), a Fiji-based regional news service (Pacific Magazine 1 Nov. 2002), "[w]here there were once busy shops there are now empty, often overgrown, spaces" (20 Aug. 2006). Chinese business owners received no compensation for the damages they sustained, and "bureaucratic delays and disputes" over reconstruction strategies also played a role in hindering the district's redevelopment (AAP 17 Apr. 2007; Pacnews 25 Apr. 2007). According to Pacnews, basic utilities such as drainage and telephone cables remain unavailable (ibid. 19 Apr. 2007).
In August 2007, Pacnews reported that a member of parliament, Nelson Nee, has stated that he obtained cabinet's approval for a plan to redistribute undeveloped Chinese-owned land to indigenous Solomon Islanders (20 Aug. 2007). The Lands Minister claimed not to have received documentation relating to this plan (Pacnews 20 Aug. 2007) and corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
Current country conditions
In June 2007, the New Zealand government updated its travel advisory on the Solomon Islands, noting that there was "some risk" to the security of travellers because of a fragile security situation in Honiara that "could deteriorate at short notice" (21 June 2007). At the same time, the government stated that there were no recent reports of attacks against foreigners (New Zealand 21 June 2007).
The Australian and Canadian government travel advisories on the Solomon Islands both express concern about civil unrest and criminality, including violent crime, especially in Honiara (Australia 16 Aug. 2007; Canada 29 Sept. 2007). The Australian government urges its citizens to "exercise a high degree of caution" due to the political volatility in the country (16 Aug. 2007). Violent crime, involving armed gang violence, robbery and rape, has reportedly increased in the capital city, especially in Chinatown (Canada 29 Sept. 2007). The Canadian government has cautioned that "[p]olice are limited in their ability to respond effectively" (ibid.).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Australia. 16 August 2007. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. "Travel Advice for Solomon Islands."
Australia Associated Press (AAP). 17 April 2007. "PAC: Chinese in Solomons Cautious of Chinatown Investment." (Factiva)
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 20 April 2006. "Fears of Fresh Solomons Violence."
Canada. 29 September 2007. Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. "Travel Report for the Solomon Islands."
China. 21 April 2006. Embassy of the People's Republic of China in Australia. "Chinese Embassy in PNG Aids Chinese in Solomon Islands."
Le Figaro [Paris]. 20 April 2006. Tanguy Berthemet. "Les îles Salomon renouent avec la violence."
Moore, Clive. 5 May 2006. The University of Queensland, Brisbane. No More Walkabout Long Chinatown: Asian Involvement in the Solomon Islands Economic and Political Processes. Paper presented at the "Solomon Islands: Where to Now?" workshop, Australian National University, 5 May 2006.
New Zealand. 21 June 2007. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. "NZ Government Travel Advisory – Solomon Islands."
Pacific Magazine [Honolulu]. 1 November 2002. Laisa Taga. "Here is the News About All those Regional News."
Pacific News Agency Service (Pacnews). 20 August 2007. "Honiara MP After Unused Chinese Land." (Factiva)
_____. 25 April 2007. "Chinese Association Wants Government Support." (Factiva)
_____. 19 April 2007. "Chinese Community Frustrated in Solomons Capital." (Factiva)
Radio New Zealand International [Wellington]. 27 November 2006. "Chinese Businesses in Solomons Urged to 'Give More Back'." (Factiva /BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific)
Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) [Honiara]. 19 July 2006. "Welcome."
Solomon Islands. 19 April 2006. Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. "Chinese Community Under NGO Protection."
Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC) [Honiara]. 1 July 2006. "Solomon Islands Receives 800,000 Dollars from Taiwan for Chinese Riot Victims." (Factiva/BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific)
United States (US). 6 March 2007. Department of State. "Solomon Islands." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2006.
The University of Queensland, Brisbane. 5 September 2007. The School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics. "Associate Professor Clive Moore."
XE.com. 5 October 2007. "Universal Currency Converter Results."
Xinhua News Agency [Beijing]. 25 April 2006. "Chinese Nationals Back Home Safe and Sound."
_____. 20 April 2006. "China to Secure Safety of Compatriots in Solomon Islands."
Additional Sources Consulted
Internet sites, including: The Age, Amnesty International (AI), The Australian, European Country of Origin Information Network (ecoi.net), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Pacific Islands Report, Radio Australia, Radio New Zealand, Solomon Islands Ministry of Commerce, Sydney Morning Herald, World News Connection (WNC).