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Weapons the Chinese police may be equipped with consist of mandatory and optional items.  Mandatory items include batons, handcuffs, tear gas ejectors, and flashlights.  Optional items include police knives, guns, and anti-stab vests. 

The standard gun specially designed to be used by the police is the 9mm Chinese Police Revolver.  In practice, however, most Chinese police officers are not equipped with firearms, as gun-related crimes are deemed rare because of the country’s strict gun control laws.  However, since March 2014, many provinces reportedly announced that they would equip their on-duty policemen with guns in order to improve police response to violent incidents, and the Ministry of Public Security has launched training programs to train police officers on firearms use.  This followed a deadly attack in the southwest city of Kunming in that month.

The use of police weapons is governed by a set of regulations promulgated by the State Council in 1996, which specify fifteen urgent situations involving violent crimes in which the police may open fire. 

I.  Introduction

The Law of the People’s Republic of China (PRC or China) on the People’s Police (Police Law) is the primary legislation that governs the organizational structure, function, discipline, etc. of the Chinese police forces throughout the country.  The law was first enacted in 1995 and later amended in 2012.[1] 

According to the Police Law, the Chinese police consists of several police forces: the public security police, state security police, prison police, and judicial police of the People’s Courts and People’s Procuratorates (China’s prosecution service).[2]  Article 10 of the Police Law provides that the public security police may use weapons in the case of emergencies, such as a suspect resisting arrest, rebellion, prison escapes, an attempt to grab a firearm, or other acts of violence.[3]  To stop other serious illegal and criminal activities, the public security police may use “police implements” such as batons and tear gas.[4]

It is not clear whether the ordinary police may receive military equipment and arms.  It is worth noting, however, that the People’s Armed Police (PAP), a paramilitary force that operates as part of the country’s armed forces, may participate in dealing with rebellions, riots, large-scale criminal violence, and terrorist attacks, among their duties of safeguarding national security and social stability.[5]  When performing these duties, the PAP troops are required to follow the same rules on the use of police weapons that apply to the police.[6]

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II.  Police Weapons and Equipment

A.  Individual Weapons

In 2006, the Ministry of Public Security issued a circular specifying the standard weapons and equipment that may be used by police officers in performing their duties of maintaining public security and enforcing the law.  The circular applies to all levels of public security authorities throughout the country.[7] 

The circular divides weapons and equipment into mandatory and optional items.  Mandatory items with which officers must be equipped include batons, handcuffs, tear-gas ejectors, and flashlights.  Optional items that may be provided include police knives, guns, and anti-stab vests.[8]  The standard police gun that is specially designed to be used by the police is the 9mm Chinese Police Revolver.[9]  In practice, however, Chinese police do not generally carry firearms, as gun-related crimes are rare in China, where guns are strictly controlled, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.[10]

B.  Other Equipment

Chinese law divides the weapons and equipment the police use into police implements and weapons.  The term “weapons” refers to items capable of deadly force, including guns and ammunition; “police implements” include batons, tear gas, water cannons, special riot guns, handcuffs, shackles, and police ropes.[11]

C.  Special Police Forces

Various police forces may “appropriately add other weapons and equipment” beyond the standard equipment in accordance with their work needs, according to the 2006 circular.[12] 

The Ministry of Public Security had previously issued a guideline in 1994 that provided a set of equipment standards for police teams patrolling in cities.  Weapons that may be issued to police patrol officers include pistols and submachine guns.  According to the 1994 guideline, police patrol teams may be equipped with transportation equipment, communication equipment, weapons, police implements, protective equipment, and other equipment, which specifically includes the following items:

  • Transportation: bicycles, patrol cars, motorcycles
  • Communication: base stations, car radio station, portable radio station
  • Weapons: pistols, submachine guns, gun cabinets, bullet cabinets
  • Police Implements: batons, handcuffs, sirens, police ropes
  • Protective Equipment: anti-stab vests, bulletproof vests, helmets, knee pads, and gloves
  • Other equipment: flashlights, search lights[13]

The 1994 guideline states that its implementation depends on the “practice and financial ability of each locality.”[14]  In practice, police officers on patrol do not appear to have been widely equipped with guns until recently.[15]  In April 2014, police officers in Shanghai reportedly started carrying guns and bullets while on patrol.[16]

The equipment standards for the Chinese SWAT teams and anti-riot police forces could not been located.  According to a news report, SWAT teams are equipped with military-style weapons, such as the Type 95 assault rifle and Type 88 sniper rifle, when dealing with armed criminals and terrorists.[17]

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III.  Rules on the Use of Police Weapons

Use of police weapons is governed by the Regulations on Use of Police Implements and Weapons by the People’s Police, which were promulgated by the State Council in 1996.[18]  The Regulations provide fifteen “urgent situations” of violent crimes under which the police may use weapons such as guns and ammunition, including

  1. arson, breaching a dike, or explosion that seriously endangers public security;
  2. hijacking any aircraft, ship, train, or motor vehicle, or driving any motorized vehicles such as an automobile or ship that intentionally endangers public security;
  3. forcibly seizing or robbing any dangerous goods such as guns, ammunition, explosives and deadly poisons that seriously endangers public security;
  4. committing a crime by means of using or threatening to use any dangerous goods such as guns, explosives and deadly poisons;
  5. sabotaging important facilities for the military, communication, traffic, energy or danger-prevention to such an extent as to cause serious and imminent danger to public security;
  6. committing violent acts such as murdering and kidnapping other persons and taking them as hostages, which endanger citizens’ lives;
  7. objects or targets that are stipulated by the State to be guarded, defended, or kept on alert being violently assaulted or sabotaged or in imminent danger of being violently assaulted or sabotaged;
  8. robbing public or private property in a gang or with a weapon;
  9. seriously disturbing social public order such as gathering people to fight with weapons or to make a riot, which cannot be otherwise subdued;
  10. resisting or obstructing by means of violence the people’s policemen from lawfully performing their duties or violently raiding the people’s policemen and thus endangering their lives;
  11. suspects in custody or criminals in prison gathering to make a riot, commit violence or escape;
  12. rescuing suspects in custody or criminals in prison;
  13. resisting arrest or escaping after committing arson, breaching a dike, causing an explosion, committing murder, committing robbing or engaging in other serious acts of violent crime;
  14. criminals resisting arrest or escaping with dangerous goods such as guns, explosives and deadly poisons; or
  15. other situations that permit the use of arms as provided in the laws and administrative regulations.[19]

Generally, policemen are required to warn persons before using weapons and may open fire only if the warning yields no success.  If they have no time for a warning or a warning would only cause more serious and dangerous consequences, they may open fire without a warning, according to the Regulations.[20] 

The Regulations also specify that the police cannot use weapons where

  1. The person committing a crime is a pregnant woman or a child, except where the person is committing a violent crime by using or threatening to use dangerous goods such as guns, explosives and deadly poisons; or
  2. The criminal is at a place that is crowded with people or stored with a large number of inflammable, explosive, deadly poisonous or radioactive dangerous goods, unless more dangerous consequences would occur without using arms to stop the criminal act.[21]

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IV.  Recent Incidents and Controversies

As mentioned previously, most Chinese police officers were not generally equipped with firearms, as gun-related crimes were deemed rare because guns are strictly controlled in the country.[22]  Some have argued for armed police on social media.  One of the most-cited examples in support of equipping policemen with guns, as noted by a Foreign Policy article, is the Tai’an case:

In January 2011, two armed suspects shot dead four policemen and injured five others in Tai’an, a city of over 7 million in the eastern province of Shandong.  Reports showed that the policemen, all unarmed, went to a suspect’s home to investigate a murder; as soon as the police identified themselves, two men inside opened fire.[23] 

After a deadly attack in a railway station in the southwest Chinese city of Kunming on March 1, 2014, in which dozens of people were killed and more than one hundred wounded, many provinces reportedly announced that they would equip their policemen on duty with guns in order to improve police response to violent incidents.[24]  In March or April of this year, the Ministry of Public Security reportedly launched training programs to train police officers on firearms use.  The first group of trainers was dispatched to the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in northwest China, according to Xinhua.[25]

The move triggered more debates on whether or not Chinese police should carry guns.  The police have been under public criticism in cases of accidental injury and improper use of firearms, in addition to the public mistrust of police forces.[26]

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Laney Zhang
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
September 2014


[1] Renmin Jingcha Fa [Law on the People’s Police] (promulgated by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), Feb. 28, 1995, revised Oct. 26, 2012), Xinbian Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Changyong Falü Fagui Quanshu (2014) (hereinafter Fagui Quanshu) 3-65, English translation available at Westlaw China (by subscription).

[2] Id. art. 2.

[3] Id. art. 10.

[4] Id. art. 11.

[5] Renmin Wuzhuang Jingcha Fa [Law on the People’s Armed Police] (promulgated by the NPC Standing Committee, Aug. 27, 2009) arts. 2 & 7, Fagui Quanshu 3-62, English translation available at Westlaw China (by subscription).

[6] Id. art. 15.

[7] Gong’an Danjing Zhuangbei Peibei Biaozhun [Equipment Standards for Individual Public Security Officers] (issued by the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), July 24, 2006), §§ 1.0.4 & 2.0.1, available for downloading on the MPS website, http://www.mps.gov.cn/n16/n1957124/n1957171/n1957428/2863724.html (in Chinese; translated by author).

[8] Id. app.

[9] Gong’an Danjing Zhuangbei Peibei Biaozhun Banbu, Fen Bipei he Xuanpei [Equipment Standards for Individual Public Security Police Officers Issued, Including Mandatory and Optional Items], Xinhuanet (Sept. 29, 2006), http://news.xinhuanet.com/legal/2006-09/29/content_5152908.htm (in Chinese).

[10] Chinese Police Trained in Correct Firearms Use, Xinhuanet (June 6, 2014), http://english.people.com.cn/n/ 2014/0606/c90882-8737849.html.

[11] Renmin Jingcha Shiyong Jingxie he Wuqi Tiaoli [Regulations on Use of Police Implements and Weapons by the People’s Police] (promulgated by the State Council, Jan. 1, 1996), 1 Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Guowuyuan Gongbao [PRC State Council Gazette] (1996) 6-9.

[12] Id. § 1.0.3.

[13] Quanguo Chengshi Renmin Jingcha Xunluodui Zhuangbei Biaozhun Shixing Guiding [Trial Provisions of the Equipment Standards for National City Patrol Police Officers] (Ministry of Public Security, July 6, 1994; amended Aug. 11, 1997), http://policy.mofcom.gov.cn/GlobalLaw/blank/claw!fetch.action?id=g300019411&industry code=S09423&secondcode=214002 (in Chinese; translated by author), amendment available at Westlaw China (by subscription).

[14] Id.

[15] Duodi Tuixing Yixian Minjing Peiqiang Xiedan Xunluo [Civil Police at Many Localities Started Carrying Guns and Bullets on Patrol], Xin Jing Bao (May 27, 2014), available at http://politics.people.com.cn/n/2014/0527/ c1001-25068549.html (in Chinese).

[16] Gongbo Jian, Shanghai Jiceng Xunjing Zuoqi Peiqiang Xunluo [Shanghai Local Police Patrol Officers Started Carrying Guns and Bullets on Patrol from Yesterday], Jiefang Daily (Apr. 21, 2014), http://newspaper.jfdaily. com/jfrb/html/2014-04/21/content_1160722.htm (in Chinese). 

[17] Chinese Police Trained in Correct Firearms Use, supra note 10.

[18] Renmin Jingcha Shiyong Jingxie he Wuqi Tiaoli [Regulations on Use of Police Implements and Weapons by the People’s Police] (promulgated by the State Council, Jan. 1, 1996), 1 Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Guowuyuan Gongbao [PRC State Council Gazette] (1996) 6-9, English translation available at Westlaw China (by subscription), translation amended by author.

[19] Id. art. 9.

[20] Id.

[21] Id. art. 10.

[22] Chinese Police Trained in Correct Firearms Use, supra note 10.

[23] Lotus Yuen, Should Chinese Police Carry Guns?, Foreign Policy (Apr. 17, 2014), http://www.foreignpolicy. com/articles/2014/04/17/should_chinese_police_carry_gunsSee also, Chinese Police Must Rethink Gun-Carrying Policy, China.org.cn (Jan. 11, 2011), http://www.china.org.cn/opinion/2011-01/11/content_21711718.htm.

[24] Civil Police at Many Localities Started Carrying Guns and Bullets on Patrol, supra note 15.

[25] Chinese Police Trained in Correct Firearms Use, supra note 10.

[26] See, e.g., Yuen, supra note 23.

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Last Updated: 06/09/2015