British tear gas supplier to review policy over HK protests

A British company supplying tear gas to Hong Kong police said on Wednesday it would review its policies due to pro-democracy protests in which riot police have deployed the gas.

A spokesman for Chemring Defence told AFP that the firm had supplied its products to Hong Kong for “a number of years” and that these included special tear gas canisters that burst on impact to prevent them from being thrown back at the police.

“I do not wish to comment on what our future policies may or may not be as a result of the evolving situation in Hong Kong, but clearly these policies will be reviewed,” the spokesman said.

The company, which started out as a fireworks maker, said its contracts were “ultimately controlled” by the British government through the issue of export licences and end-user certificates.

“Chemring also has its own sale of goods policies which are continually reviewed,” the spokesman said.

Britain has raised the pressure on China to respond to Hong Kong’s democratic aspirations.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond defended the tear gas exports to the former British colony.

“CS gas is available from large numbers of sources around the world. To be frank, I think that is a rather immaterial point. They could buy CS gas from the US,” he told the BBC Daily Politics show this week.

The Campaign Against the Arms Trade, a watchdog group, said Britain had granted six licences worth £180,000 to sell tear gas to Hong Kong in the past four years.

Riot police fired tear gas in ugly clashes on Sunday but the protests have remained largely peaceful since then.

The most intense civil unrest Hong Kong has experienced since its 1997 handover from British rule was sparked by Beijing’s decision in August to restrict who can stand for the city’s top post.