The U.K. has banned the sale of “lethal” military equipment to China since the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. However, U.K. government has authorized the sale of £2.6-billion worth of military and civilian equipment with potential military use to China in the past three years, government figures show.
Last year saw a tripling in exports to China of “dual use” items defined as “civilian goods with a military purpose.” Some £1.6-billion worth were authorised in 2020, compared to £526-million in 2019, despite China being identified by the British government as “an increasing risk to U.K. interests” and “the biggest state-based threat to the U.K.’s economic security.” The U.K. military identifies China as posing a particular challenge in the South China Sea, where Beijing is building bases on disputed atolls in the Spratly and Paracel Islands, which are also claimed by other states in the region. In March, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said China was a “threat” in the contested sea.
Most British exports were for “dual-use” equipment but £53-million worth classified purely as “military” went to China over the three years 2018-20, including components for combat aircraft and military support aircraft. Other items licensed for use by China included military communications equipment and technology for air defense systems.
Britain is also aiding China’s naval capacity. Ministers approved two export licences in 2019 for components for combat naval vessels that were identified as being for “end use by the [military] Navy.”
The previous year, approvals were given to sell components for combat naval vessels and for military radars where China’s navy was also stated to be the end user. Other British exports likely to benefit the Chinese navy have included technology for combat naval vessels and for “military patrol/assault craft.”
In addition to supporting the navy and air force, hundreds of licences have been approved by U.K. ministers for the sale of “information security equipment” and “imaging cameras” to China. It is not clear if such exports could aid the Chinese state’s domestic surveillance capabilities since the items are not specified in government documents. The U.K. ’s partial arms embargo on China forbids the export of equipment “which might be used for internal repression”.
Sam Walton, the chief executive of the Free Tibet campaign, said: “We have seen fine words from this government condemning the repression in Tibet, the Uyghur genocide and the destruction on democracy in Hong Kong. But their actions once again show their words to be worthless. Britain cannot condemn China’s jackboot whilst heeling that same boot.”
UK Hypes China ‘Threat’ While Selling Country Billions in Military-Related Equipment – Consortiumnews
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