Attacks highlight burgeoning underground gun industry

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 June, 2009, 12:00am

The mainland's booming underground weapons industry has burst into the spotlight after a string of violent attacks. Gunmen have killed two people and injured at least five in major cities in the past two weeks.

Victims have been either shot dead or abducted in incidents in Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing and Wuhan since late last month, despite some of the world's toughest laws on the manufacturing and sale of bullets and guns.

State media said gun factories were proving profitable in rural areas in Qinghai , Guizhou and Guangxi provinces, where struggling farmers manufactured rifles and pistols for a considerable profit.

Reports said gunmakers were selling pistols valued at less than 300 yuan (HK$340) to arms dealers for 3,000 to 4,000 yuan, which were then sold on for 13,000 yuan.

Guangdong police said newcomers to the popular gun-manufacturing sector in the province could even download manuals from the internet with full details on how to manufacture a rifle.

'The technologies for gun manufacturing are simple ... and police have seized sophisticated weapons in different raids,' Yang Jianghua , director of criminal investigation at the Guangdong Police Bureau, was quoted as saying by yesterday's Southern Metropolis Daily.

He named Shantou, Puning and Dianbai as the hubs of Guangdong's firearms industry.

Guangdong police have netted 158 guns and 2,006 bullets, and arrested 83 suspects in raids in the past five months. A similar effort in 2007 turned up 4,231 guns and 243 suspects, police said.

The Ministry of Public Security said police were increasingly facing armed suspects, and nationwide more than 100,000 firearms were being seized annually.

Easy access to weapons and their affordability are major concerns for the central government, especially in the light of unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang last year.

Authorities announced a national campaign to eradicate guns before the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic in October, a day after a PLA sentry was shot dead in Chongqing and his weapon stolen.

Although authorities report gun seizures and are strengthening controls, the situation does not appear to be improving. On Wednesday, two staff members at Wuhan University were kidnapped by a gunman, several hours after a 44-year-old man was shot dead by an anonymous gunman in Chongqing.