Extend embargo on China and end arms sales, says CAAT

By agency reporter
October 24, 2015

As the Chinese President visited London last week, Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) called on the UK government to strengthen its arms embargo against the regime and stop all arms sales.

Following the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, the UK imposed a partial arms embargo on the sale to China of "weapons and equipment that could be used for internal repression". The European Council agreed that an arms embargo should be imposed. However, its scope could not be agreed, and it was left to the individual interpretation of Member States.

The UK interprets the scope of the China embargo as covering:

  • - lethal weapons, such as machine guns, large calibre weapons, bombs, torpedoes, rockets and missiles;
  • - specially designed components of the above and ammunition;
  • - military aircraft and helicopters, vessels of war, armoured fighting vehicles and other such weapons platforms;
  • - any equipment which might be used for internal repression.

Despite the embargo being in place, the last UK government licensed £127 million of arms to China. These included:

  • - components for military helicopters;
  • - communications equipment;
  • - technology for military patrol/assault craft;
  • - components for military aircraft;
  • - components for artillery ammunition;
  • - technology for military helicopters.

The Chinese government is still oppressive and has been condemned by Human Rights Watch for unleashing “an extraordinary assault on basic human rights and their defenders with a ferocity unseen in recent years.” Polling by Opinium LLP for CAAT has found that 66 per cent of UK adults disagree with arms sales to China, with only 12 per cent supporting them.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “Despite some change, China is governed by an authoritarian dictatorship. The UK should lead the way in extending the existing embargo to cover all military goods and equipment, including components. We are always told that human rights and democracy are central to UK foreign policy, but all too often these values are overridden in the name of short term profits for arms companies.”

China has a growing arms industry, which has surged by 143 per cent in the last five years. China has been linked with arms sales to Iran, Syria, South Sudan and North Korea.

* CAAT https://www.caat.org.uk/

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