China launched disinformation campaign after Honiara riots: report

Sydney, Australia, Oct 5 (EFE).- China orchestrated a disinformation campaign to blame Australia and the United States for instigating the violent riots in the Solomon Islands in November 2021, a report released by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) think tank said on Wednesday.

The episodes of violence, in which three people died and which took place mainly in Honiara’s Chinatown district between the 24th and 27th, arose as a result of discontentment with the government, which in 2019 switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing.

Dozens of articles published after the riots by Chinese state media directly accused these countries and Taiwan of inciting violence.

“Australia has fomented riots in the Solomon Islands,” read a Nov. 27 editorial in the Chinese state-run Global Times, which also published a December opinion piece titled: “US interference the real reason that fuels tensions in Pacific Islands.”

Experts from ASPI analyzed Chinese state information campaigns in Solomon Islands over two time periods spanning a total of 18 weeks, finding 67 articles on the Solomons.

“Of those, 47 articles (70%) directly supported the CCP’s narratives in attempting to undermine Solomon Islands’ existing relationships—predominantly with the US and Australia. The remaining 30% reported on the issue without a clear agenda,” the report said.

The ASPI said the CCP “had no evidence” to support its narrative that Australia, the US and Taiwan instigated the riots “but sought to use those falsehoods to undermine the relationship between Solomon Islands and its other current and former foreign partners.”

In April, the Solomon Islands and China signed a security pact, which was negotiated in an opaque manner and provides for Beijing to send in security troops if requested by Honiara – similar to the emergency measures it already maintained with Australia and New Zealand.

The agreement raised concern with Canberra and Washington, the Pacific’s hegemonic powers, considering that China seeks to expand its influence in the region and that this could lead to greater tensions.

China has since maintained its disinformation campaign against the West, according to ASPI.

“After the security agreement was leaked online in March 2022, the CCP sought to further undermine Solomon Islands’ relationships with Australia and the US,” ASPI noted, adding that a second narrative accused Canberra and Washington of being “colonialist bullies that were threatening Solomon Islands’ sovereignty.”

The ASPI report was released a day before Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s visit to Canberra, where he is due to meet Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

The relationship between Australia and the Solomon Islands has deteriorated in recent years, mainly due to Honiara’s rapprochement with China. Honiara maintains that it will keep Canberra as its preferred security partner, although it is open to new relations with other powers. EFE


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