LONDON (AFP) - A leading human rights group has called China one of the world's most reckless arms exporters with one billion dollars in annual trade fuelling violence in countries like Sudan, Nepal and Myanmar.
"China is fast emerging as one of the world's biggest, most secretive and irresponsible arms exporters," Amnesty International said in a press release to accompany a report Sunday on the global arms trade.
The report accused China of helping to sustain brutal conflicts, criminal violence and other grave rights violations around the world, and indicated the possible involvement of Western companies in making some of the weapons.
"China describes its approach to arms export licensing as 'cautious and responsible', yet the reality couldn't be further from the truth," said Helen Hughes, Amnesty International's arms control researcher.
"China is the only major arms exporting power that has not signed up to any multilateral agreements with criteria to prevent arms exports likely to be used for serious human rights violations," she said in the press release.
The report said that China's highly secretive arms exports were estimated to be worth more than one billion dollars a year.
"As a major arms exporter and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, it is high time that the Chinese authorities live up to their obligations under international law," said Hughes.
"They must introduce effective laws and regulations banning all arms transfers that could be used for serious human rights violations or breaches in international humanitarian law."
Recent deals brought to light by Amnesty included the sale of more than 200 Chinese military trucks to Sudan in August 2005 which it says were normally fitted with US Cummins diesel engines.
The United States has an embargo on the sale of weapons to both China and Sudan, where similar vehicles are used for the killing and abduction of civilians in the troubled region of Darfur, Amnesty said.
Civil war and a humanitarian crisis in Darfur have left 180,000 to 300,000 people dead and 2.4 million people displaced since February 2003.
The report cited "regular Chinese military shipments to Myanmar," including 400 military trucks sent in August 2005 despite "the torture, killing and forced eviction of hundreds of thousands of civilians."
China's deals with Nepal in 2005 and 2006 included the sale of 25,000 Chinese-made rifles and 18,000 grenades at a time when the government was brutally repressing civilian demonstrators, it said.
The report, entitled "China: Sustaining conflict and human rights abuses," also mentions a burgeoning market in Chinese-made pistols to Australia, Malaysia, Thailand and particularly South Africa.
China rejected the allegations in the Amnesty report on Monday, with assistant foreign minister Li Hui giving some brief comments.
"I can't agree to this," Li said when asked about the report at a briefing on a summit this week of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a regional grouping.
"China and the other SCO member nations strictly follow the relevant international conventions and we live up to our obligations to international bodies and treaties," he said
The Chinese foreign ministry did not respond to requests for a more detailed reaction to the report.