An opinion poll conducted in the Solomon Islands which is about to host the 2023 Pacific Games seems to reveal concerns over the extent of Chinese influence in the islands.
The poll highlighted by the media portal Japan Forward said that only 23 percent of those sampled saw the help that China has given in a positive light, despite the fact a Chinese company has built the main stadium for the Games.
Seventy-seven percent are said to have taken a negative view of Beijing’s involvement on the island.
Ties with Beijing became closer in 2019 after Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare broke off relations with Taiwan.
This caused tension between the Honiara Government in Guadacanal and Malaita islands, which enjoyed a good relationship with the Taiwanese.
In 2021, buildings in Honiara’s Chinatown were set on fire during disturbances.
Since then Beijing has set about building its influence.
The main stadium to be used for the Pacific Games is being constructed by the Chinese Government-run China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation.
The cost of construction is believed to be US$53 million (£43 million/€49 million).
“China’s gift of friendship will become the country’s burden,” Solomon Islands opposition leader Peter Kenilorea Junior, a member of Parliament since 2019, has warned.
He has also expressed concern at the security pact signed between the two nations last year.
The details of security pact agreement had been kept secret but leaked documents revealed a clause allowing the Solomon Islands to request China to send police and military personnel if required.
Earlier this year, a liaison team from the Chinese Police visited the construction site at the stadium.
Some 80 Solomon Islands athletes have travelled to China to train before the Games.
Meanwhile Australia have also offered training facilities to athletes from the Islands at their Gold Coast Performance Centre.
Solomon Island Police were invited to Australia to observe operations by Federal Police.
The re-opening of a United States Embassy on the Islands is widely seen as a signal of concern about growing Chinese influence.
SOURCE: INSIDE THE GAMES/PACNEWS