Western media's attitude toward Australia donating rifles to Solomon Islands shows double standards: experts
Published: Nov 04, 2022 09:21 PM
A demonstration of the joint police training between China and the Solomon Islands on July 1, 2022. Photo: Courtesy of China Police Liaison Team

A demonstration of the joint police training between China and the Solomon Islands on July 1, 2022. Photo: Courtesy of China Police Liaison Team

After fiercely hyping about China providing replica guns to the Solomon Islands for police training, seven months later the Western media seems to have a different attitude toward Australia providing real weapons to the islanders.

According to the Solomon Islands government, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) donated 13 vehicles and 60 short barrel rifles to the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) on Wednesday. 

The 60 Daniel Defense rifles use the latest technology and they show Australia's support for the RSIPF, said a commissioner from the Australian police, according to the Solomon Islands government website.

But the gift aroused doubts and concerns among society in the Solomon Islands. 

Some opposition party members in the Solomon Islands questioned why the local police force "needed the high-powered guns," questioning that the weapons might have been given because of Australia's anxiety about China's cooperation with the Solomon Islands.

ABC noted the protests in a Tuesday report, which also said the rifles were part of Australia's "arms race" with China. The Guardian, meanwhile, said it was a "game-changer" donation.

The positions taken by these reports are in sharp contrast with the reports seven months ago, when they even criticized the use of replica guns in the joint training between Chinese and Solomon Islands' police, saying that the replicas had caused concerns and demanding a verification of whether they were real weapons or not. The RSIPF soon refuted these claims.

"Compared with the hype about replica guns and smears on China, this time the Western media and the media in the Solomon Islands sponsored by Western countries have been 'too quiet,'" Yang Honglian, a senior researcher at the Pacific Islands Research Center of Liaocheng University based in Fiji, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Yang noted that the rifles provided by Australia are unlikely to improve the Solomon Islands' social stability, noting that the police force is understaffed and undertrained. 

The Solomon Islands has a dark history of firearms abuse and has been suffering from social instability, including several severe riots in recent decades, observers said. 

Weapons were collected and destroyed throughout the country in the early 2000s, but it could not stop the gun issue there, and it remains a sensitive topic in the country.

From November 24 to 26, 2021, serious riots occurred in Solomon Islands. Chinatown in Honiara was vandalized and looted, and hundreds of overseas Chinese nationals there became homeless. Their assets from decades of hard work instantly went up in smoke.

China's security cooperation with the Solomon Islands has been a favorite topic for Western politicians and media to smear China's presence in the South Pacific. 

China and the Solomon Islands inked a bilateral security cooperation framework agreement on March 30 this year, the Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed the following day. The two countries established diplomatic ties in September 2019.

The Western criticism aims to "incite public opposition," experts said, noting these smear tactics are all based on geopolitics. "They are judging from their own standpoint, which is not objective or fair."