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Chinese targeted by PNG rioters

21 September 07 13:33 GMT
By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

Police in Papua New Guinea are hunting looters in the troubled Western Highlands who have ransacked Chinese-owned businesses.

Warning shots were fired at those involved in "chaotic" disturbances in Mount Hagen, PNG's third largest city.

A small number of shops and warehouses were burnt to the ground, and many left standing were targeted by looters.

The unrest is evidence of growing resentment of Asian immigrants in the impoverished South Pacific country.

The mayhem lasted for about three hours and brought Mount Hagen to a standstill.

The police used teargas and fired warning shots as they battled to regain control.

The gangs of looters hit back with a barrage of stones. Even schoolchildren were reportedly seen running away with clothing, food and kitchenware.

The hunt is now on for those responsible.

Bitter jealousy

The victims in all of this have mostly been Asian immigrants in the Chinatown district of the city.

In recent years there has been an influx of tens of thousands of Chinese settlers into Papua New Guinea.

It is a cultural shift that many locals have found hard to accept.

The Asians are not always welcome. Their perceived wealth in a poor country has ignited feelings of resentment and bitter jealousy.

It is the not the first time that Chinese traders have been singled out in the South Pacific.

Last year, there were similar problems in the Solomon Islands and in the capital of Tonga, Nuku'alofa.

In Nuku'alofa, nearly 30 Chinese-owned stores were fire-bombed or looted in disturbances in November.

The Chinatown area of Honiara in the Solomon Islands suffered the same fate, where rioting reduced the thriving commercial centre to a mass of twisted metal and burnt-out buildings.

The trouble forced hundreds of migrants to abandon their dreams of a new life in the Pacific and return home to China virtually empty-handed.

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