Solomon Islands protests escalate into riots

In the Solomon Islands, protests in the capital city of Honiara calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare have escalated into riots.

The dispute stems from concerns of the people of Malaita, the most populated island, over their perceived neglect by the government.

The rioters have heavily damaged government and private buildings. They have burned a building in the Parliament compound as well as local businesses in the city's Chinatown.

Sogavare imposed a 36-hour lockdown in Honiara that began on Wednesday evening.

The prime minister said, "Hundreds of citizens took the law into their own hands today. They were intent on destroying our nation and the trust that was slowly building among our people."

The political uncertainty felt by the people is caused in part by Beijing's ongoing push to increase its influence in the Pacific. In 2019 the Solomon Islands severed its diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of China.

Neighboring Australia has announced that it will send military and police forces to the island nation at its request to restore calm.