The most populated province in Solomon Islands is threatening to break away to form its own country.
Malaita's premier Daniel Suidani said the groundwork for an independence referendum would begin next week.
Suidani said the move was triggered by a lack of consultation on the government's decision last year to switch allegiance from Taiwan to China.
He said the final straw was the government's decision to ignore widespread opposition to this week's repatriation flight from China, that contained more than 80 Chinese workers.
"So we see that even [though] the Solomon Islands civil society and the Solomon Islands Christian Association has called for the cancellation of the trip it has fallen on dear ears.
"So I feel it is not worth to stay with a leadership that doesn't hear the cries of the people," Suidani said.
The Beijing-funded flight from Guanzhou landed in Honiara on Thursday with 104 people on board.
About 20 were Solomon Islands citizens while the rest were Chinese workers for the embassy, as well as technical personnel and private contractors brought in to build sports stadiums for the 2023 Pacific Games in Honiara.
It is the largest group of foreigners to be allowed into the country since it closed its borders in March because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The flight was widely opposed by the public but the government allowed it to go ahead saying the risks were manageable.
But Daniel Suidani was outraged by the decision and said Honiara needed to get its priorities straight.
"The government has been doing something opposite from what it announced as preparedness for Covid-19," Suidani said.
"It talks so much about preventing this sickness from coming but now we get this flight.
"My question is what is really important, the stadium or the peoples lives?"