UK arms embargo on mainland China and Hong Kong

This page provides guidance on the partial arms embargo on exporting certain military goods to mainland China, Macao and Hong Kong

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.

Transit control

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.

Contact details

For further information on financial sanctions: contact the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation 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 or subscribe to the Export Control Joint Unit’s notices to exporters

For further information on transport sanctions: contact the Department for Transport on

For general information on sanctions: contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office’s Sanctions Unit on


The Export Control Order 2008

Guidance on exporting to China

Apply for an export licence through SPIRE, the online export licensing system managed by the Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU).

Updates to this page

Published 31 December 2020