Call for UK government to end arms sales and training for Hong Kong police

By agency reporter
July 3, 2020

Campaign Against Arms Trade has called on the UK government to end all arms sales and training for the Hong Kong police. This follows the enforcement of a new 'security law' that enables inflicts repressive new restrictions on pro-democracy protesters. There have been widespread reports of tear gas and pepper spray being used against protesters.

There is a close political relationship between the UK government and the regime in Hong Kong. This has been complemented by police training and arms sales.

In 2014, the Hong Kong police used UK-made tear gas against pro-democracy campaigners. In the aftermath of the crackdown the UK government pledged to take the abuses into account before approving licences to Hong Kong in future. Unfortunately, within 12 months the UK was again allowing the export of tear gas to the Hong Kong authorities. Last summer, the same equipment was used again, with the same horrific results.

As recently as last year the UK College of Policing provided training for forces in Hong Kong.

Since the crackdown in 2014, the UK has licensed £9.5 million worth of arms to Hong Kong. This includes:

  • £2.5 million worth of ML1 licences (small arms)
  • £2.2 million worth of ML4 licences (grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures – this category includes CS gas)
  • £1.7 million worth of ML15 licences (armoured plate, body armour, helmets)
  • £800k worth of ML3 licences (ammunition)

This is an underestimate. In that time the UK government has also approved 13 Open Licences, including licences for ammunition, tear gas, 'crowd control' ammunition and small arms. Open Licences allow an unlimited transfer of arms during a pre-set period.

According to the consolidated criteria for arms exports: “The government will not grant a licence if there is a clear risk that the items might be used for internal repression.”

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: "The images we have seen from Hong Kong have been appalling. The use of  tear gas and rubber bullets must be condemned in the strongest terms. 

"There are big questions about the role of UK-made weapons in the repression. UK-made tear gas has been used against campaigners in Hong Kong before, and there is a strong possibility that it is being used again. Tear gas can be deadly and should never have been sold in the first place. 

"There must be an immediate end to all arms sales and training for the Hong Kong authorities, and a firm assurances that sales will not be resumed once the repression is out of the headlines."

* Camapign Against Arms Trade https://www.caat.org.uk/

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