sanctions 30 July 2020

As UK extends China arms embargo to Hong Kong, EU announces its own measures

Days after the United Kingdom announced it would be extending its arms embargo on China to Hong Kong – in response to a controversial national security law that Beijing imposed on the former British colony in late June – the European Union said it is following suit with its own measures.

‘Given the role China has now assumed for the internal security of Hong Kong, and the authority it is exerting over law enforcement, the UK will extend to Hong Kong the arms embargo that we have applied to mainland China since 1989,’ UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the House of Commons in a 20 July statement.

The UK’s Department of International Trade’s Export Control Joint Unit (‘ECJU’) said the prohibition restricts exports of potentially lethal weapons, their components or ammunition and equipment which might be used for internal repression.

It said restrictions apply to:

  • Lethal weapons, such as machine guns, large-calibre weapons, bombs, torpedoes, rockets and missiles.
  • Specially designed components of the above and ammunition.
  • Military aircraft and helicopters, vessels of war, armoured fighting vehicles and other weapons platforms.
  • Any equipment which might be used for internal repression.

The ECJU added that open general licences that include Hong Kong ‘will be changed or amended to bring them in line with restrictions on China.’

The EU on Tuesday agreed its own package of measures in response to China’s actions over Hong Kong, including an export restriction to Hong Kong of any equipment or technology that can be used for ‘internal repression, interception of internal communications or cyber surveillance’.

However, the joint position, agreed to by the EU’s foreign ministers, did not mention any potential sanctions, or how exactly the measures could be implemented.

Germany’s foreign ministry said that Berlin will ‘immediately cease exports of military equipment, and also of particularly sensitive dual‑use goods, to Hong Kong and treat the territory in the same way as the rest of the People’s Republic of China.’

Raab also announced that the UK is suspending its extradition treaty with Hong Kong ‘immediately and indefinitely’. He added that the UK ‘wants a positive relationship’ with China but that the ‘imposition’ of the new security law in Hong Kong by Beijing was a ‘serious violation’ of the country’s international obligations.

The restrictions were announced by the UK after a visit to London late last month by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss issues including how to counter China’s growing economic and diplomatic power. Pompeo indicated that Washington hopes to ‘build out a coalition that understands this threat and will work collectively to convince the Chinese Communist Party it’s not in its best interests to engage in these kinds of behaviours.’