Skip to Content

Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2788

China Key Arms Supplier to Human Rights Abusers

By Thalif Deen - Inter Press Service

United Nations, 07 August, (IPS): As China tries to boost its international image, playing host to a summer Olympic games, the government in Beijing is being singled out as a key arms supplier to some of the world's worst human rights abusers, according to a new study released here.

Although China controls only 2 percent of the global arms market, Beijing’s impact "is measured less by the value of its sales than by the character of its clients," says William D. Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation. A brief by the Washington-based non-profit public policy institute, released Wednesday, points out that China is currently "an arms supplier of last resort for dictators and human rights abusers", including Sudan, Zimbabwe and Myanmar (Burma).

"China’s domestic policies have come under much-deserved scrutiny in the run-up to the Olympics," noted Hartung, author of the study, who says Beijing’s clients include politically repressive regimes.

"We shouldn’t forget that the Chinese government’s most egregious act has been its role as an enabler of mass murder in Darfur," he said.

Without Chinese support, he argued, the ability of the Sudanese government and its allies to kill, maim, and intimidate the people of Darfur would be greatly diminished.

Asked whether Western nations are equally guilty in their arms sales policies, Hartung told IPS that major suppliers like the United States, Britain and France all supply dictatorships and human rights abusers.

But he pointed out that China’s markets include the few repressive regimes that these major exporters have chosen not to supply.

For example, in the case of the U.S., 17 of its 25 largest recipients of weapons in the developing world in 2007 were designated as major human rights abusers or undemocratic regimes by its own State Department.

"Under various laws and political commitments [not formal treaties], major suppliers are committed to limiting sales to regions of conflict and major human rights abusers," according to Hartung.

But in practice, he said, these rules are violated more often than they are observed, generally on grounds of "national interest", which could mean anything from exporting to major oil producing countries to supporting nations in "strategic locations".

In order to address the hypocrisy of current arms export rules, such as they are, Amnesty International, Oxfam, and scores of other groups are promoting the concept of a global Arms Trade Treaty that would make these loose promises to avoid arming dictators and human rights abusers into formal legal commitments, he added.

In a statement released Wednesday, Human Rights First and the Save Darfur Coalition said the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) recent efforts to charge Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir with genocide puts the world’s governments on notice that war crimes may well be occurring in Darfur.

Countries such as China and Russia are bound by the Genocide Convention to take all possible action -- including immediately suspending arms sales to Sudan -- the two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) said.

At a meeting of the Security Council last week, Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya spoke against the recent ICC indictment of Al-Bashir on charges of genocide in Darfur. "China supports the reasonable request by the African Union and other organizations for the Security Council to take early action to suspend the indictment of the Sudanese leader by the ICC, in accordance with the relevant provisions" of the Rome Statute that created the ICC.

Under Article 16 of the Rome Statute, the 15-member Security Council has the power to suspend any indictment of Al-Bashir -- under a "deferral of investigation and prosecution" clause.

Hartung said that China has been the most egregious violator of the global arms embargo on Sudan, providing everything from guns and ammunition to arms manufacturing facilities.

Since 2004, the vast majority of Sudan’s small arms and light weapons have come from China -- and many of them have found their way into the hands of the notorious Janjaweed militias in Darfur.

The arming of Sudan is "just the most damning example of a Chinese policy that has resulted in major weapons exports to repressive regimes in Zimbabwe and Myanmar, as well as sales of missile technology to Iran and Pakistan," Hartung said.

China is essentially "bartering arms and political support for access to Sudan’s oil resources," Hartung explains.

China has also sold combat aircraft to Myanmar, Sudan, and Zimbabwe, as well as air--to-air missiles to Sudan.

Asked to detail some of the Chinese weapons sales, Hartung told IPS that shipments to Myanmar include 12 F-7 fighter aircraft; 40 PLA-2A short- range air-to-air missiles; 40 PLA-2B short-range air-to-air missiles; and 12 K-8 aircraft, which can be used for training or for combat.

The arms shipments to Sudan include 3 A-5C Fantan fighter/ground attack aircraft and 12 K-8 trainer/combat aircraft, along with 10 Type-85 IIAP tanks and 10 WZ-551 armoured personnel carriers.

The sales to Zimbabwe include 12 K-8 trainer/combat aircraft, plus small arms and ammunition.

- Asian Tribune -

Share this