Tongan stores defunct as Chinese businesses increasingly take over, businessman claims

    A Tongan businessman claims Chinese have taken over the kingdom’s business sector.

    Fakaʻosi Maama posted photos on Facebook showing what he said were local retail stores being closed.

    The photos were taken in Tongatapu, Tonga’s mainland, in the Western districts.

    There were reports of local retail stores owned by Tongans were also being closed in the eastern and central Tongatapu.

    Maama said he believed this was a true image of how the Chinese had taken over and controlled the kingdom’s business sector.

    He said that in most of the villages he found all the retail stores were owned by Chinese.

    He said the death of the Tongan shops in the villages and towns had badly affected the livelihood of all the locals.

    The locals relied on the Tongan owners of these small scale businesses when it came to village fundraising, social and cultural activities even in churches.

    The Chinese did not help these villages and towns this way, Maama said.

    After Maama posted the photos and made his claims, a debate erupted on social media showed how Chinese retail stores and businesses had dominated and killed Tongan businesses.

    Some people called on government to act now and do something to help the scarce Tongan businesses alive.

    Others suggested that Tongans should boycott the Chinese businesses and only buy from the Tongan retail shops.

    However some said the Tongan businesses could not outdo the Chinese because they were smarter and had more experiences in businesses.

    Critics have accused the former Tongan governments of selling Tongan passports to Chinese.

    This allowed them to become citizens of Tonga with the right to conduct businesses reserved for Tongans.

    Not all businesses allowed for foreigners in Tonga

    The Tongan government said it had prohibitions in place forbidding foreigners from operating some of the businesses reserved for its citizens.

    The Minister for Labour and Commerce, Dr. Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa, made the revelation in the House recently saying only Tongans were allowed to operate these businesses.

    Tu’i’onetoa said Tongans who were allowed to conduct these businesses included foreigners who had obtained their Tongan citizenship.

    Businesses barred to foreigners in Tonga include:

    1. Taxi businesses
    2. Private passenger hire services
    3. Car dealerships
    4. Retails businesses including food and domestic materials
    5. Wholesale
    6. White bread bakeries
    7. Tongan crafting, tales, poetry and myths, indigenous songs and songs accompanied by instruments, art of movements of hands while singing to demonstrate the lyrics of the songs, Tongan faiva, indigenous drawings, painting, carvings, sculpture,
    8. Carving embellishment
    9. Jeweller, clothings, indigenous uniforms and weaving.
    10. Poultry
    11. Exporting coconuts
    12. Wiring of electric wires in buildings worth less than $500,000
    13. Planting crops such as yams, kumara and tapiocas
    14. Planting hiapo, pumpkins, kava and lou’akau.
    15. Fishing using hooks and lines in reefs and coastlines or within 19 kilometres (12 miles) zones from the beach.
    16. Fishing using hooks and lines in seas less than 1000 metres deep.

    The main points

    • A Tongan businessman claims Chinese have taken over the kingdom’s business sector.
    • Faka’osi Maama posted photos on Facebook showing what he said were local retail stores being closed.
    • The photos were taken in Tongatapu, Tonga’s mainland, in almost every villages in Eastern district, Central and Western districts.
    • Maama said he believed this was a true image of how the Chinese had taken over controlled the kingdom’s business sector.

    For more information

    NZ wary of Tongan passports following ongoing scandal   

    Local Chinese business growth in Tonga raising concern (Maori TV)

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