Dozens of Chinese firms are producing and exporting “tools of torture” to countries with poor human rights records, Amnesty International has warned.
More than 130 companies are involved in producing or trading the equipment, including electric stun guns and metal spiked batons, up from about 28 companies a decade ago, the human rights group said.
The devices are usually marketed to law enforcement agencies. They fuel human rights abuses by security forces in African and south-east Asia, Amnesty claimed in a report.
“While some of the exports are no doubt used in legitimate law enforcement operations, China has also exported equipment that has inhumane effects, or poses a substantial risk of fuelling human rights violations by foreign law enforcement agencies,” it added.
One company, China Xining Import/Export Corporation, which advertises thumb cuffs, restraint chairs and electric stun guns, said in 2012 it had ties to more than 40 African countries, Amnesty said. The firm could not be reached for comment.
The rights group worked with the British-based Omega Research Foundation, which investigates the trade and the use of military, security and police equipment. Asked about the report, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry claimed Amnesty was not a reliable group.
She said: “This international organisation is always biased against China and I really doubt the authenticity of the report that has been released.”
China is a major investor in resource-rich Africa and the Beijing government said in July more than half its foreign aid of £8.5 billion between 2010 and 2012 had been directed to Africa.
Torture by law enforcement authorities is an issue in China. The communist state’s highest court said in November it would eliminate the use of torture to extract confessions.
Amnesty said photographs from Ghana, Senegal, Egypt and Madagascar appeared to show police toting Chinese-made electric shock stun batons.
“Amnesty International and Omega consider that some of the weapons and equipment manufactured in China have inherently abusive effects that are contrary to international human rights standards for law enforcement,” the group said.
In June, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said China was guilty of “large scale and systematic” human rights abuses, during a visit to London by Chinese prime minister Li Keqiang.
He said the Chinese people were “shackled” to a one-party regime that was the “antithesis” of a democratic society.
Mr Clegg also complained of the “many journalists being persecuted” and pointed out China’s high number of executions. Amnesty states that the last reliable figure available is from 2008 when 1,718 people were executed, though US-based Chinese rights group, the Dui Hua Foundation, in 2011 estimated the total to be about 4,000.