Mon Jun 12, 2006 10:19 AM IST169
BEIJING (Reuters) – China is selling arms to an array of human rights abusers such as Sudan and Myanmar to extend its trade and diplomatic reach, human rights group Amnesty International said on Monday, an accusation Beijing denied.
The Amnesty report said China was becoming one of the world's top exporters of guns, anti-riot equipment and conventional weapons, and its customers included governments that routinely use such arms against their own citizens.
"China is fast emerging as one of the world's biggest, most secretive and irresponsible arms exporters," Amnesty said on its Web site, www.amnesty.org.
"The report shows how Chinese weapons have helped sustain brutal conflicts, criminal violence and other grave human rights violations in countries such as Sudan, Nepal, Myanmar and South Africa. It also reveals the possible involvement of Western companies in the manufacture of some of these weapons."
But a Chinese official rejected the accusations. China "strictly abides by the relevant international treaties", Assistant Foreign Minister Li Hui told a news conference in Beijing.
Li was introducing preparations for a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) — a Central Asian regional group — to open on Thursday in Shanghai. He said China and other SCO members "strictly carry out their various international obligations".
The Amnesty report said Beijing had a "dangerously permissive approach to licensing arms exports" and its "routine export" of conventional weapons and small arms had contributed to human rights violations, including in brutal armed conflicts.
It said China's customers included:
— Sudan, where government forces and supporters have perpetrated "widespread killings, rapes and abductions" against opposition groups in the Darfur region.
— Nepal, where armed forces only recently backed down from attacking protesters demanding the ouster of the king.
— The Great Lakes countries of Africa, where Amnesty said Chinese AK-47 assault rifles had fuelled fighting and atrocities.
Since the 1990s, China has issued regulations governing arms shipments abroad, requiring that the weapons are for "self-defence" of the customer country and do no threaten regional peace and security.
But Amnesty International said those regulations were vague and often ignored by China's weapons-making conglomerates.
Beijing has pressed the European Union to end a ban on weapons sales to China, which was imposed after Chinese troops shot down anti-government protesters and bystanders in 1989. China says the ban is outdated and "discriminatory."
But the Amnesty report said the embargo should stay in place, warning that European technology could be "easily transferred and used to contribute to grave human rights abuses in China itself, and in certain third countries".
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