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Vice Foreign Minister Wang Guangya Wrote on Small Arms Issues

On December 10, 2002, the Guangming Daily published an article entitled Promote Multilateral Small Arms Process and Maintain International Peace and Stability -- To mark China's signing of the Firearms Protocol by Vice Foreign Minister Wang Guangya.  This article was also published in China Daily on December 10.  The full text is as follows:

On 9 December 2002, China signed The Protocol Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime or the Firearms Protocol for short.  The negotiation of the Firearms Protocol, which commenced in Vienna in October 1999, spanned nearly one year and a half.  In May 2001, the Protocol was open for signature at the UN Headquarters in New York.  China is the 46th signatory state to the Protocol.  Under the Protocol, all States Parties shall put in place or improve administrative procedures or system to exercise effective control over the manufacturing, marking, import and export of firearms and to confiscate and destroy all illicit firearms.  The Protocol plays a positive role in combating the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms related to transnational organized crimes.

The conclusion of the Firearms Protocol reflects the common aspiration of the international community to stop the proliferation of illicit small arms.  Small arms refer mainly to pistol, submachine gun, grenade and portable anti-aircraft missile system.  Such weapons, though commanding far less power than such weapons as nuclear, biological or chemical weapons of mass destruction, can too cause very serious problems.  Since the end of the Cold War, some countries and regions have been plagued by incessant internal or external conflicts triggered by escalating ethnic, religious and racial disputes.  According to the UN statistics, small arms were used in 47 major conflicts out of a total of 49 in 1990's and they are responsible for 300,000 deaths per year in armed conflict.  As the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan pointed out in his Millennium Report, "in terms of the carnage they cause, small arms, indeed, could well be described as 'weapons of mass destruction'."  In recent years, the increasingly rampant terrorism and transnational organized crimes such as armed traffic in narcotics have added fuel to the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms.

Small arms by themselves are not the cause of the above-mentioned problems.  For most countries, small arms are indispensable means for maintaining law and order and for self-defence.  But an effective control of small arms production and transfer and a severe crackdown on illicit small arms will certainly help solve the above-mentioned problems.  In recent years, the international community has made a series of efforts to combat and prevent illicit small arms.  Since 1995, the UN General Assembly has adopted an average of two or three resolutions on small arms at its annual sessions.  The UN has set up four Governmental Expert Groups to look into the issue of small arms.  Leaders of the UN member states expressed, at the UN Millennium Summit, their commitment to a concerted action to end illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons.  In July 2001, the UN convened the Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, which adopted a Program of Action on Combating the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons by consensus.  Besides, the European Union (EU), the Organization of African Union (OAU), the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Association of the South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) have proposed initiatives and taken substantive actions on the issue.  The joint efforts of the international community have paid off. The Firearms Protocol is one of the significant achievements of such efforts.

China has a large population and vast land.  In recent years, there have been some cases of firearms-related crimes, such as illicit firearms manufacturing and trafficking.  A rigorous control of the manufacturing and transfer of firearms and small arms is very important for law and order in the country.  Such endeavour has become all the more important as we step up the fight against "East Turkistan" terrorists.  Over the years, China has enacted and strictly enforced a series of laws and regulations on firearms and small arms, such as The Law on the Control of Firearms and The Regulations on the Administration of Arms Export, and exercised an effective control over the entire process of small arms manufacturing, transportation, import and export.  There are explicit provisions on the punishment of firearms-related illegal activities in China's Criminal Law and the above-mentioned laws and regulations.  Since 1996, China's police have successfully launched a series of nationwide campaigns to confiscate illicit firearms.  A total of 3.8 million pieces of illicit firearms have been confiscated as of the end of the first half of 2002, including about 30,000 pieces of military firearms and 2.3 million pieces of civilian firearms.  The rate of firearms-related crimes has dropped substantially.

Given the transnational nature of illicit firearms-related crimes, it is essential and important to combat those illegal activities through international cooperation.  China fully supports and actively participates in all international efforts to address the issue of illicit small arms.  China participated in the UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects in 2001, the Firearms Protocol negotiations and all meetings of the UN Governmental Expert Groups on small arms, playing a constructive role at all such events.  In recent years, China's public security organs have, through INTERPOL and other channels, provided assistance to their foreign counterparts in identifying and tracing of firearms involved in some criminal cases.  China's signing of the Firearms Protocol demonstrates once again that China is a responsible country and is ready to participate in all positive multilateral and other diplomatic efforts of the international community. The Firearms Protocol will play a positive role in improving Chinese legislation on small arms and in standardizing our small arms related work.  It can also help strengthen our administration of the manufacturing, storage, use and transfer of firearms and small arms, which will contribute to the maintenance of law and order, and social stability.

The problem of small arms is due to a host of complex reasons and touches on broader issues.  It is closely related to international and regional security situation.  Therefore, its complete and final solution will be a long and arduous process.  The conclusion of the Firearms Protocol and the convocation of the UN small arms conference in 2001 marked the beginning of such process.  The UN has decided to host a series of conferences from 2003 to 2006 to continue the discussion on such issues as the transfer of small arms to non-state actors, whether to formulate regulations on small arms export control and how to regulate the activities of small arms brokers, so as to further strengthen the control and administration of the manufacturing and transfer of small arms, and effectively prevent and combat illicit small arms.

The 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China has set the building of a well-off society in an all-round way as the goal of our development in the years to come.  To achieve this goal, we must, among others, further strengthen our control over small arms so as to create favourable conditions for our cause of reform and development and maintain long-term social harmony and stability throughout the country.  We will continue to take an active part in relevant international efforts and bring our small arms work more in line with international practice, so as to make greater contributions to international cooperation in combating illicit small arms and to maintain international peace and stability.
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