Bru­tal crim­i­nal thugs raid shops, de­stroy Tonga’s friendly rep­u­ta­tion

Fiji Sun - - Sunbiz - SOURCE: MATANGI TONGA

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.

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