Brutal criminal thugs raid shops, destroy Tonga’s friendly reputation
Tonga’s reputation as the Friendly Islands is being threatened by criminal thugs – probably from the same group - who are attacking Tonga’s Chinese shopkeepers with a brutality that is breathtaking. Shop surveillance videos released to Matangi Tonga last week show extremely violent crimes. The videos record attacks – in one a gun is fired to the side of a woman shopkeeper – and another where a Pahu shopkeeper, hit by a suckerpunch to the face, falls backward suffering severe head injuries. He remains paralysed and fed on a tube. These disturbing attacks were just two of several this year. The videos show why Chinese shopkeepers live in fear, particularly those living in the Pahu area of Nuku’alofa. Their experience of living in Tonga is a different world to the one that most of us know. The abuse they suffer from thugs entering their shops is a dark, unilluminated side of life in the capital. Tonga Chinese Association secretary Jeremy Wang said in one incident six months ago a shopkeeper was hurt in an attack that is shown on the security video. “A local young man got into an argument with a local Chinese businessman and it turned into a brutal attack where the Tongan man basically assaulted the Chinese man with a fist. When he fell, his head fell on the shopping racks and this gentleman suffered a very severe injury to his head and he’s spent the last six months in a hospital and he had to be fed through a tube. And it’s very horrifying.”
The social forces behind the violence are complicated by a political dimension. Malakai Kolamatangi, Director – Pasifika, at Massey University in New Zealand said for a start it’s obvious that “people are after property after cash and that could happen to anyone, it doesn’t just need to happen to the Chinese,” he told news media. “There is also perhaps an underlining current of resentment and we saw this during the riots in 2006 when the Chinese shop owners and the shops were broken into and some burnt and as a result some of the Chinese shop owners got security guards, Tongan locals to guard their shops” Koloamatangi mentioned that the change in government that made the Chinese feel less safe. “The current government and the current leaders were amongst the most vocal opponents of the sale of passports and the Chinese coming to Tonga…so, yeah, maybe Chinese would feel a bit more threatened now that the political structure in the government is moving more towards democracy, which is, in fact, ironic because they should be feeling more protection!” he said.
Their experience of living in Tonga is a different world to the one that most of us know. The abuse they suffer from thugs entering their shops is a dark, unilluminated side of life in the capital.
Armed robber holds-up woman shopkeeper opposite Queen Salote College in Nuku’alofa, Tonga earlier this year.