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Report: China selling arms to rights abusers

Published: Thursday June 8, 2006

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China is quickly becoming one of the world’s largest, most secretive and irresponsible arms exporters, according to a new report issued today by Amnesty International. And Cummins Inc., a manufacturer of diesel engines and related technologies based in Columbus, Ind., may not be helping the situation.

China: Sustaining Conflict and Human Rights Abuses documents 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 this military equipment. According to the report, more than 200 Chinese military trucks--typically fitted with Cummins diesel engines--were shipped to Sudan in August 2005. According to Amnesty International and other human rights monitors, military trucks were used throughout the massacres in 2004 to transport both Sudanese military and Janjawid militia personnel, and in some cases to deliver people for extrajudicial execution.

"Amnesty International calls on Cummins Inc. to determine whether its engines have been fitted into Chinese military trucks and sent to Sudan and Myanmar," said Amnesty International USA Executive Director Larry Cox. "U.S. companies must ensure they are not complicit in human rights violations facilitated by Chinese military equipment."

According to a U.N. investigation in August 2005, 212 Chinese military trucks model EQ2100E6D had been supplied to Sudan. Hubei Dong Feng Motor Industry Import & Export Co., the company that exports these military trucks, has reported that this same model is powered by a Cummins diesel engine.

Amnesty International is also concerned by regular Chinese military shipments to Myanmar, including the supply in August 2005 of 400 military trucks to the Burmese army despite its involvement in the torture, killing and forced eviction of hundreds of thousands of civilians. AI is also concerned that military trucks sent to Myanmar may be fitted with U.S. engines, although, unlike the case of Sudan, it is unclear what specific truck models were shipped to the country.

China’s arms exports, estimated to be in excess of $2 billion per year, often involve the exchange of weapons for raw materials to fuel the country’s rapid economic growth. But it is a trade shrouded in secrecy; Beijing does not publish any information about arms transfers abroad and hasn’t submitted any data to the U.N. Register on Conventional Arms in the last eight years.

"China has used the phrase 'cautious and responsible' to describe its arms export licensing, however its record of trading arms in conflict-ridden countries like Sudan and Myanmar show their actions are anything but," said Colby Goodman, Advocacy Associate on AIUSA’s Control Arms Campaign. "China should join other major exporting powers and agree to multilateral agreements to prohibit arms exports to places where they'll likely be used for grave human rights violations."

In addition to information about Chinese arms sales to Myanmar and Sudan, the report details:

•Chinese military exports to Nepal in 2005 and early 2006, including a deal to supply nearly 25,000 Chinese-made rifles and 18,000 grenades to Nepalese security forces, who were at the time involved in the brutal repression of thousands of civilian demonstrators; and •An increasingly illicit trade in Chinese-made Norinco pistols in Australia, Malaysia, Thailand and particularly South Africa, where they are commonly used for robbery, rape and other crimes.

Amnesty International is calling on China to report annually and publicly on all arms export licenses and deliveries and to support strict export guidelines on the international transfer of arms at an upcoming review conference on the program of action to combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons from June 26 to July 7. Just this week, AI members in Hong Kong launched a campaign to encourage their government to become more responsible arms exporters.