Hong Kong withdraws from the DSEI arms exhibition. Tear gas supplied by Chemring used by the police
The protests in Hong Kong have been going on since 9th June 2019 and we have seen regular incidents of violent police actions to quell the demonstrations. There have also been what appear to be organised attacks by thugs wielding bars and clubs with no sign of any arrests or indeed of police at all.
A statement by Amnesty following the July events said:
The violent scenes in Yuen Long tonight were in part because Hong Kong police chose to inflame a tense situation rather than deescalate it. For police to declare today’s protest unlawful was simply wrong under international law.
While police must be able to defend themselves, there were repeated instances today where police officers were the aggressors; beating retreating protesters, attacking civilians in the train station and targeting journalists. Alarmingly, such a heavy-handed response now appears the modus operandi for Hong Kong police and we urge them to quickly change course. Man-kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong
The police have been using tear gas supplied by the UK company Chemring. The firm has a factory outside Salisbury (pictured) although the cannisters are made by their plant in Derby. It is still under investigation for money laundering, bribery and corruption by the Serious Fraud Office.
Following similar incidents in 2014 – the umbrella movement – it was thought that a licence to sell tear gas was withheld or at least under review but it seems as though the company was free to sell it to the Hong Kong police. This is part of a wider government policy of allowing UK companies to sell weapons to all kinds of regimes whilst allegedly claiming to enforce a strict control policy. Chemring were granted an open licence in 2015. The former foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, recently withdrew the licence following the weeks of violence which makes inviting HKPF to the DSEI arms fair odd. The firm’s human rights policy (2019) says:
[We will] seek to uphold all internationally recognised human rights wherever our operations are based. para 3.14, 2019
Hong Kong police withdrew from the DSEI arms fare to be held this week having been invited by the Dept. for International Trade the minister for which is Liz Truss. A statement by the department said:
an invitation does not imply that any future export licences will be granted to Hong Kong
Campaign Against the Arms Trade, CAAT said:
The UK government approved the export of an unlimited quantity of crowd control equipment to Hong Kong. Police in Hong Kong have used tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannon and batons to violently disperse protests opposing the new Extradition Bill. At least six people have been taken to hospital after inhaling tear gas.
There have been many protests about this fair which invites a number of countries many of which commit a range of human rights infringements, use torture and in the case of Saudi Arabia are bombing civilian targets in Yemen.
The Omega Research Foundation established in 1990, provides rigorous, objective, evidence-based research on the manufacture, trade, and use of, military, security and police (MSP) equipment. Such technologies range from small arms and light weapons to large weapon systems; from policing technologies and prison equipment to equipment used for torture, amongst others. A recent tweet from them shows a photograph of a CS gas cannisters which appears to be made by Chemring.
The substance of the Hong Kong protests is that they do not want individuals to be extradited to China whose legal system is corrupt. Britain has a delicate role to play in protecting the agreement with China for ‘one country – two systems’. We wish to see essential freedoms in the ex colony to be upheld. Our integrity is a key component in that. As in so many other countries around the world, our willingness to sell arms and MSP equipment risks compromising that integrity.
UPDATE 5 June 2020 see also the firm’s alleged activity in selling arms to the Egyptian regime which commits many human rights abuses.
If you would like to join the local group you would be most welcome. The best thing is to keep an eye on this site or on Facebook and Twitter, and make yourself known at an event.
Sources: Financial Times; CAAT; Morning Star; Guardian; Fieldfisher; Omega Research Foundation; Chemring website