Since 1989, following Chinese military action to suppress demonstrations in Beijing, the UK has observed an embargo on trade in certain military items with mainland China.
Following the handover of Macao from Portugal to China in December 1999, Macao was added to the embargo on mainland China in 2000.
In June 2019, the UK made the decision to restrict the sale of crowd control equipment to Hong Kong.
In July 2020, the UK extended the embargo with mainland China fully to Hong Kong in response to the National Security Law.
Partial arms embargo
The military items covered by the embargo are as follows:
- 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
This embargo covers the export of these items from the UK. It is implemented through the Export Control Order 2008. All export and trade licence applications for mainland China, Macao, and Hong Kong as elsewhere will be assessed on a case-by-case basis against the UK Strategic Export Licensing Criteria. We will not issue a licence where to do so would be inconsistent with the Criteria.
Military items transiting the UK are still regarded as being exported when they leave the country and are therefore subject to control. Article 17 of the Export Control Order 2008 includes a transit and transhipment exception meaning that in many situations a licence is not required. This exception does not apply to goods destined for mainland China or Macao, meaning that a licence is required to transit military goods through the UK or to tranship them in the UK with a view to re-exportation to mainland China or Macao.
A licence is also required to transit ‘Category B’ goods through the UK or to tranship them in the UK with a view to re-exportation to Hong Kong (as specified in Schedule 4 Part 4 of the Export Control Order 2008). Category B of the controls comprises small arms and light weapons, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), long-range missiles and man portable air-defence systems.
For further information on financial sanctions: contact the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation OFSI@hmtreasury.gov.uk or subscribe to the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation’s e-alerts
For further information on export controls: contact the Export Control Joint Unit Helpline on 020 7215 4594 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or subscribe to the Export Control Joint Unit’s notices to exporters
For further information on transport sanctions: contact the Department for Transport on email@example.com
For general information on sanctions: contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office’s Sanctions Unit on firstname.lastname@example.org