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France bans TikTok, declares state of emergency in Caledonia amid unrest

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France has declared a state of emergency on the Pacific island of New Caledonia after three young indigenous Kanak and a police operative were killed in riots over electoral reform.

The state of emergency, which entered into force at 5am local time, gives authorities additional powers to ban gatherings and forbid people from moving around the French-ruled island.

Police reinforcements adding 500 officers to the 1800 usually present on the island have been sent after rioters torched vehicles and businesses and looted stores.

Schools have been shut and there is already a curfew in the capital.

Rioting broke out over a new bill, adopted by MPs in Paris on Tuesday, that will let French residents who have lived in New Caledonia for 10 years vote in provincial elections, a move some local leaders fear will dilute the Kanak vote, Canberra Times reported.

Meanwhile, French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal announced on Wednesday the dispatch of military forces to New Caledonia’s ports and airports amid a surge of violence.

“Military personnel from the armed forces are being deployed to secure the ports and airport of New Caledonia”, he said at the opening of an interministerial crisis meeting at the Interior Ministry. Moreover, he said that the territory’s high commissioner, Louis Le Franc told him about a ban on the social media TikTok to avoid misinformation spreading during the protests.

“I invite the Caledonian political leaders to seize this extended hand and come to Paris for discussions over the coming weeks […] The important thing is to find the means to ensure that New Caledonia’s sovereign choice to remain part of the Republic is respected, and to find the right balance for the future,” Attal said during his National Assembly speech.

Authorities also decided to ban video app TikTok, which the government during a bout of riots on France’s mainland last northern hemisphere summer said helped rioters organise and amplified the chaos, attracting troublemakers to the streets.

Electoral reform is the latest flashpoint in a decades-long tussle over France’s role in the mineral-rich island, which lies in the southwest Pacific, 1500km east of Australia.

France annexed the island in 1853 and gave the colony the status of overseas territory in 1946.

It has long been rocked by pro-independence movements.

 

 

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