Posts Tagged ‘Hong Kong’


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.

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Chemring factory near Salisbury.  The CS gas cannisters are not made here but in their plant in Derby.  Photo: Salisbury Amnesty

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.

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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

 

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The new South Wilts University Technical College in Salisbury is to be part-funded by arms companies and a number of people are concerned that young people will be corrupted by such firms.  The Salisbury group has campaigned in the past on the issue of arms as Salisbury is surprisingly rich in arms companies.  It is likely that because we are near to Salisbury Plain – where a number of regiments are based – and the garrison towns of Bulford and Tidworth, it is attractive to such firms to set up here.  We are also near Porton Down and to Boscombe Down.

Some years ago, we discovered that a firm based in Salisbury was supplying the Indonesians with armoured land rovers being used in the oppression of the East Timorese.  Chemring, which has a factory at a place called High Post near Salisbury, was also the subject of press interest recently for allegedly supplying CS gas to the Hong Kong police to help suppress demonstrations, and to Israel.  Chemring supplied CS gas which was used in Egypt.

So the activities of arms companies are a matter of interest to us.  It has to be said straight away that, unless you are a complete pacifist, there are aspects of the arms trade which are perfectly legitimate.  We need to defend ourselves and therefore have a need to make armaments.  We can also sell such arms to countries we trust or to whom we are allied.  The difficulty is when arms are supplied to regimes who have little interest in human rights.  This is why Amnesty among others has been promoting an arms trade treaty.  Another problem is the shadowy world of dealers and brokers who go on to supply anyone willing to pay.

Anyone interested in the arms trade, then a book to read is The Shadow World: inside the global arms trade by Andrew Feinstein (Hamish Hamilton, 2011).  This remorselessly describes the trade and the high degree of corruption involved in its activities.  The industry is over £1tn in size and money flows via tax havens and brokers around the world.

Look at almost any news broadcast and it doesn’t matter who is fighting whom, what is noticeable is that they all seem to be remarkably well armed.  The various belligerents drive around in military vehicles, and they seem to be guns and rocket launchers aplenty.  These arms don’t appear out of nowhere, they are supplied by the shadowy world of the arms dealer and are financed via various tax havens, many of which are Crown dependencies.

Feinstein expresses it well in his introduction:

In our twenty-first-century world the lethal combination of technological advances, terrorism, global crime, state sponsored violence and socio-economic inequality has raised instability and insecurity to alarming levels.  At the same time, the engine that has driven this escalation, the global arms trade, grows ever more sophisticated, complex and toxic in its effects.

It might therefore be thought essential that the world’s democratic nations should address this trade effectively and urgently.  If it must exist, then surely it should be coherently regulated, legitimately financed, effectively policed and transparent in its workings, and meet people’s need for safety and security?

Instead the trade in weapons is a parallel world of money, corruption, deceit and death.  It operates to its own rules, largely unscrutinized, bringing enormous benefits to the chosen few, and suffering and immiseration to millions.  The trade corrodes our democracies, weakens already fragile states and often undermines the very national security it porports to strengthen.  (p xxii, ibid)

Arms sales are promoted by the British government by the Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO).  There has been a lot of publicity recently as various ministers – including the Prime Minister – visiting the Gulf states to sign arms deals.  Some of these countries arrest or harass oppositions, use torture regularly, execute people in public, mistreat their women and have corrupt judicial systems.  No matter it seems, there’s trade to be had.  The Campaign Against the Arms Trade CAAT held a meeting in Salisbury recently to publicise the financing of this college by four arms firms.  The firms involved include Chemring, QinetiQ, Esterline and Dstl.  Serco is also involved which has a dubious record.

Some of the questions to ask of this college are: will their young people be free to discuss the activities of this trade?  If it transpires that munitions supplied by one of these firms are used to suppress demonstrations or are used to kill unarmed people for example, will students be free to debate this?  Will the effects and practices of the arms trade be a topic of discussion in Citizenship activities?  Interesting questions …  CAAT allege that the firms will use the college as a means to promote their image.  It will be interesting to see how this UTC deals with the ethical and moral issues of the arms trade and adopts an appropriately impartial position when and if allegations of wrongdoing emerge.

The college is part of the Baker Dearing Educational Trust and none of its trustees has any local links.

Article in Salisbury JournalCAAT item discussing the college is here.

UPDATE

CAAT Newsletter item (p6)