Czech supplier Česká zbrojovka Group (CZG) has told HKFP that its subsidiary will not sell firearms to the Hong Kong Police Force after Apple Daily reported that the force was seeking to buy 1,000 submachine guns. It came after an order from a US factory owned by SIG Sauer was blocked by sanctions, according to the report.

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

Police initially placed an order from SIG Sauer for 1,000 SIG516 and MPX guns but were informed that the order had to be cancelled due to a US ban on weapons exports to Hong Kong, Apple Daily reported.

The paper said police were then interested in acquiring 1,000 Scorpion Evo 3 A1 submachine guns from Czech manufacturer Česká zbrojovka, to replace their MP5 submachine guns made by Germany’s Heckler & Koch.

However, a spokesperson said that the firm was bound by EU export law: “Česká zbrojovka has neither offered nor sold any of its products to the Hong Kong Police. The export of Česká zbrojovka Group, including its subsidiary Česká zbrojovka, is strictly governed by Czech and EU export-related rules and regulations, including the restrictions on export of military materiel to Hong Kong,” a spokesperson told HKFP on Wednesday.

Czech-made CZUB Scorpion Evo 3 A1.
Czech-made CZUB Scorpion Evo 3 A1. Photo: Wikipedia.

Orders for ammunitions from the UK and the US have also been affected by recent export bans, and police have tried to place orders with mainland Chinese suppliers, Apple Daily reported.

The US, the UK and the European Union have banned exports of some weapons to Hong Kong in response to the Beijing-imposed national security law which came into force last June 30. Critics say it is being used to crack down on dissent.

Aside from Heckler & Koch, guns currently used by police have been supplied by German-Swiss brand SIG Sauer, US-made Smith & Wesson, and Austria’s Glock. All three companies are expected to comply with export bans in future, according to the newspaper.

protest extradition china
A Hong Kong protester after being shot by police. File Photo: Lampson Yip.

Apple Daily reported that police had been training with Czech, mainland and Russian-made firearms and concluded that they prefer the Czech models. It said the force was also considered importing 9mm ammunition from the Czech Republic as well as mainland-made handguns, to replace the Smith & Wesson M10 revolvers currently used by most officers.

Police intended to visit suppliers in the mainland, but plans have been delayed due to travel restrictions under Covid-19.

A Hong Kong firearms expert, who did not wish to be named, told HKFP that while the MP5 and MPX submachine guns were preferable – as they are proven to be reliable in the battlefield – the Czech-made Scorpion Evo 3 would make a good alternative: “It is suitable for close-quarter combat, or in a confined area, but it is not very effective for ranges beyond 30 metres, for a longer range,“ he said.

Nevertheless, in a response to AFP, Czech authorities said that – since last year – the country has made no distinction between China and Hong Kong in terms of arms exports, and no such exports were permitted under the current international embargo.

In response to Apple Daily‘s enquiries, a police spokesperson said sourcing for equipment involved operational details that cannot be made public.

The spokesperson said police would source and test suitable equipment from around the world according to existing policies, procedures and regulations and operational needs, and ensure they comply with safety standards.

Correction 17/2: A previous version of this article erroneously stated that the police had bought arms from CZG, which the manufacturer denies. HKFP apologises for the error.

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Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.