Acting PNG leader condemns 'hooligan' looters
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Acting PNG leader condemns 'hooligan' looters

Papua New Guinea's acting Prime Minister Puka Temu apologised for a string of attacks on Chinese-owned shops, labelling the perpetrators "hooligans and opportunists".

world Updated: May 20, 2009 14:06 IST

Papua New Guinea's acting Prime Minister Puka Temu on Wednesday apologised for a string of attacks on Chinese-owned shops, labelling the perpetrators "hooligans and opportunists".

At least two people have died in the wave of violence directed at Chinese businesses, led by protesters who say Asian shops overcharge for their goods and are demanding that they be taken over by locals.

Beijing has urged leaders of the impoverished island nation to bring the situation under control and safeguard the safety and interests of its citizens.

Temu issued a statement condemning the unrest, and saying its instigators would be met with the full force of the law, according to Australian Associated Press.

"This government condemns in the strongest terms possible the recent looting and targeting of Asian-owned businesses," said Temu.

"While our Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare is overseas trying to lure investors to our country here we have a handful of hooligans and opportunists doing the exact opposite."

Temu extended his apologies to the affected businesses and to the public for the inconvenience caused.

"I assure them that the law will come down hard on the perpetrators," he said.

The trouble was sparked by a protest march last week in the capital Port Moresby, where demonstrators complained about the number of Asians, especially Chinese, moving into business in PNG.

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

The first Chinese moved into PNG in the late 19th and early 20th century, but few of their descendants remain, and a fresh wave of thousands of Chinese immigrants has arrived over the past 10 years.

Their rapid move into business, along with Koreans and other Asians, has provoked growing animosity from locals, many descended from warrior tribes who had no contact with the outside world until less than a century ago.

Anti-Chinese feeling has often surfaced at times of social unrest in the Pacific, with the Chinatown district of the Solomon Islands capital Honiara razed in a riot in 2006.

Chinese-owned businesses were also targeted in a riot in the Tongan capital Nuku'alofa in the same year, when much of the central business district was burned and looted and eight people killed.

First Published: May 20, 2009 14:05 IST