German firearms manufacturer Heckler & Koch has refused to sell MP5 submachine guns to the Hong Kong police force.

Several news outlets cited unnamed sources as saying that the police sought to buy the gun and its accessories at the start of this year, but the request was rejected. A police source told Ming Pao that Germany had recently banned firearms companies from selling to non-NATO countries, but the police were able to buy equipment from other EU states and the US.

Security Secretary John Lee refused to comment on the reports on Thursday afternoon. But he said there are many choices available in the market: “The supply of firearms will not affect the operations of the law enforcement agencies.”

Police MP5
Police with MP5 submachine gun. Photo: Police.

“We will not rely on a single type [of gun] or a single manufacturer. So in terms of our work, especially in counter-terrorism, it will not be affected,” he said.

Asked if there will be any issue when switching equipment, Lee said: “This is not the first time. Every law enforcement agency has its own experience in using and maintaining guns. Also there are some alternatives in the market. Thus, in every review we do, law enforcement agencies will procure new guns or look into new supplies, to ensure our operations are not affected.”

But veteran lawmaker James To, who focuses on security, said the police will need time to train with new gear: “After all they have used German [brands] for so long, trained for some time… In the fight with terrorists, either they die or you die in a split second – if you use new guns, training has to be done all over again.”

In November last year, a report from German news agency DPA cited an unnamed manager of Heckler & Koch as saying: “We only want to deliver to solid countries – that means unequivocally democratic, definitely not corrupt, and in NATO or close to NATO.”

Airport security MP5
Airport security with MP5 submachine gun. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

To told Ming Pao that around six to eight years ago, a German consul asked him about Hong Kong’s Special Duties Unit procuring German submachine guns. He said the consul asked what the unit was and if they would crackdown on people, because EU members cannot sell guns to countries or regions who suppress their own people.

To said he replied the unit was the police’s elite unit for dealing with violent criminals, and the unit does not use firearms for crackdowns.

He added that he did not know the reason for the ban on sales this time, but it may be related to the decline in human rights and right to peaceful assembly in Hong Kong.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.