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Looting of Chinese shops spreads in PNG: reports

world Updated: May 18, 2009 12:03 IST

Looting attacks on Chinese-owned shops spread across Papua New Guinea over the weekend as a wave of anti-Asian sentiment swept the country, reports said on Monday.

Shops in Madang on the north coast and Goroka in Eastern Highlands province of the Pacific nation were ransacked by mobs of men, women and children, The National newspaper said.

The looting follows attacks on Chinese-owned shops in the capital Port Moresby and the coastal town of Lae last week.

Looters said the businesses should be run by locals and that the Chinese owners were overcharging for their goods, the National has reported.

Four Asian shops in Goroka were stripped of deep freezers, radios, TVs, washing machines and groceries in early morning raids Sunday, Eastern Highlands provincial police commander Augustine Wampe told the paper.

In Madang on Saturday, one shop was looted and two damaged before police arrived and drove off the mobs, The National said.

Police in several other towns, including the Western Highlands capital of Mount Hagen, were patrolling the streets to prevent rioting or looting aimed at Chinese traders.
The governor of the National Capital District which includes Port Moresby, Powes Parkop, blamed agitators for stirring up sentiment against Asian merchants and assured the traders they were safe and should reopen their shops.

He told a news conference that Papua New Guineans should understand that the right reaction to the alleged influx of Asian merchants was not expelling them or restricting their ability to trade, The National said.

"What would happen if all our Chinese businessmen and women closed shop and left tomorrow, will it solve the problem?" he asked. "If tomorrow all our Chinese merchants leave, it will still not get us into business."

The violence against the traders followed a rampage by local mine workers on May 8 at a major nickel project in which several Chinese staff were injured and vehicles and equipment trashed.

The violence temporarily halted construction work at the 1.37 billion US dollar Chinese-run Ramu mine's Basamuk refinery site in Madang.

The Chinese government-owned Metallurgical Group Corporation, known as MCC, is the majority owner of the mine, which has been troubled by allegations of mistreatment of local labour.