Since yesterday morning the capital of the Solomon Islands, Honiara, has been enveloped in riots and unrest. Both Australia and New Zealand have sent troops to the archipelago to quell the disturbances and restore order so that the newly elected prime minister can be sworn in.
I first heard the story on NPR yesterday morning on the way to work. NPR, which generally displays a tender sensibility where multicultural issues are concerned, mentioned only that the cause of the rioting was “ethnic tensions.”
But what ethnic groups are involved? Who hates whom?
According to The Age,
The mayhem that enveloped Honiara started on Tuesday outside the parliament when a crowd opposed to [Prime Minister-elect Snyder] Rini claimed that his election had been fixed.
Rini has denied allegations that he bribed MPs with money from Chinese business interests.
Most of the buildings targeted in the subsequent riots were Chinese-owned.
So it seems that Chinese people are the victims here.
An AP story has more:
Government spokesman Johnson Honimae said about 90 percent of Chinatown had been destroyed by rioters Tuesday and Wednesday. The rioters also torched a new hotel in Honiara and several parked cars.
And ABC News (Australia) reports:
The ABC has been told by a senior Opposition politician that the events of the last two days were the result of a build-up of resentment toward ethnic Chinese Solomon Islanders and the political power they have in the country.
Not surprisingly, Xinhua has plenty of information about the events in Honiara:
The Chinese government will take every measure possible to secure the safety, lives and property of Chinese people in the Solomon Islands, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said here Thursday.
During the recent unrest in the Solomon Islands’ capital Honiara, dozens of residences and shops in the city’s Chinatown were looted and set on fire. Hundreds of local Chinese residents were forced to flee their homes.
It goes on to describe the humanitarian effort underway to care for the newly homeless Chinese refugees. China does not have diplomatic relations with the Solomons, so all its contacts with the local government must go through a third party.
The ABC reports that the unrest has spread to the neighboring province of Auki, but the arrival of Anglosphere troops has pacified the capital so that Mr. Rini could be sworn in as Prime Minister today, after a 24-hour delay.
In parts of the world where the population of Jews is in short supply, ethnic Chinese people often have to stand in as local scapegoats. The population of the Solomon Islands is about 552,000, and according to Infoplease, the ethnic breakdown is: Melanesian 93%, Polynesian 4%, Micronesian 1.5%, European 0.8%, Chinese 0.3%, and other 0.4%.
No mention of Jews. But notice that there must only be 1,600 or so Chinese in the whole country – enough to scapegoat, but too few to muster the collective clout to fight back.
All across the world the Chinese diaspora strongly resembles that of the Jews. Relative to their surrounding communities, they are usually more economically successful, better-educated, and harder-working. Combined with strong family traditions and the tendency to maintain a distinct ethnic identity through successive generations, these characteristics make them natural targets for resentment and scapegoating.
But what makes them different from the Jews is that they have a “homeland” with more than a billion of their ethnic fellows, always keeping their interests in mind. That’s probably small comfort for the displaced residents of Honiara’s Chinatown, but in the long run it will serve them well.