Dear Editor – On December 29th, 2021, while Solomon Islands people were counting down to the arrival of the New Year, a chartered flight landed in Henderson Airport Honiara, carrying first cargo of anti-riot gears aided by China. I had the honour to accompany senior Solomon Islands government officials at the airport to witness the historic moment, a milestone for China and Solomon Islands police cooperation.
During the lawless riot in November 2021, the RSIPF performed in a professional and dedicated way, facing challenges of lack of capacity and equipment. The police supplies were offered by China in response to urgent needs of the RSIPF, to enhance capacities in maintaining law and order for the sake of safety and well-being of Solomon Islands people.
In the past decades, China has cooperated with police forces in Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu and other Pacific island countries. The cooperation includes police equipment assistance, technology and experience sharing, joint operations on transnational crimes, etc. Among Pacific Islands countries, Solomon Islands is the second largest in land size, and the third largest in population. There is every reason for Solomon Islands and China to conduct police cooperation. It is beneficial to all countries in the Pacific Islands region. It will not touch anyone’s “cheese”, and will only make an even bigger “cake” for everyone to share.
I take note of some concerns about police cooperation between China and Solomon Islands. These concerns simply cannot hold water.
First, will police cooperation with China lead to “take over” of Solomon Islands?
The answer is No. This is typical Sinophobia. Police cooperation between China and Solomon Islands are based on equality, respect and trust. It is open and transparent, guided strictly by principles of sovereignty and non-interference. Same rumors spread with the establishment of diplomatic relations between Solomon Islands and China in 2019, such as “China debt trap”, “China threat”, “suppression of religion” etc.. See what happened? Solomon Islands did not lose a single inch of land, did not fall into any kind of trap, did not lose faith in Christianity, but saw numerous important large & small aid projects coming from China. Facts speak louder than words.
Second, will police cooperation between China and Solomon Islands escalate tensions in SI? This is misinformation with political purpose. And the answer is again No.
It is top priority for government of all countries to protect and serve the people. Building up law enforcement capabilities is a vital means to that end. The multinational assistance forces have been in operation in SI to help restore law and order. China’s aid equipment serves the same purpose. There surely are plenty of reports referring to some groups or forces trying to provoke and escalate tensions here. It definitely is not China.
Third, will the police cooperation between China and Solomon Islands disrupt interoperability or coordinated action of the multinational assistance forces? The answer is No. China’s assistance comes not only in police equipment, but also in experience and information sharing of capacity building. It is up to the Solomon Islands Government to decide how to utilize the assistance. Police cooperation between Solomon Islands and China does not conflict with other countries. It adds to collaboration with other countries and is not a zero-sum game.
There is even absurd accusations that the decision of Solomon Islands Government to establish diplomatic relations with China is part of reasons of the riot, and that the decision still threatens Solomon Islands national unity. These allegations are either out of ignorance or politically motivated. Solomon Islands is the 179th country to establish diplomatic relationship with China. The two countries stand together on the right side of history. The diplomatic relationship has yielded tangible fruits in the past two years and will continue to do so for the years to come. It is regrettable that some individuals always try to use China topic for their own political agenda, “blame everything on China”, mislead the public, not putting Solomon people in the first place.
As Chinese President Xi Jinping said, “Whether the shoe fits or not, only the wearer him(her)self knows”. It is the people of Solomon Islands that are in the best position to decide what is the best for themselves. I sincerely hope that Solomon Islands will restore peace and order, strengthen its capacity to protect and serve, keep its famous reputation of the Hapi Isles, and furthermore, Stable Isles and Prosperous Isles.
H.E. LI Ming
Chinese Ambassador to Solomon Islands