Firearm ownership law in China

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Firearm ownership law in the People's Republic of China heavily regulates firearms ownership. Generally, private citizens are not allowed to possess firearms.


Gun port of Chengqilou in a Hakka Fujian Tulou.
A firearm for defence against enemies in a Hakka Fujian Tulou.

During the Ming and Qing dynasties matchlock muskets were used in China. The Chinese used the term "bird-gun" to refer to muskets.[1]

In the work Guangdong xinyu, Cantonese scholar Qu Dajun recorded the use of guns by Cantonese boys in Guangdong province.[2][3][4]

The Solons were ordered by the Qianlong Emperor to stop using rifles and instead practice traditional archery issuing an edict for silver taels to be issued for guns to turned over to the government.[5]

Arrows and bows instead of muskets were also demanded in Jilin of Manchu Bannermen by the Jiaqing Emperor.[6]

"The Family Magazine" stated in 1837 that

The possession of firearms is altogether forbidden by the jealous government, as may be seen from the following extract from a Peking gazette:—" For the people to have firearms in their possession, is contrary to law, and orders have already been issued to each provincial government to fix a period, within which all matchlocks belonging to individuals should be bought up at a valuation With regard to those firearms which are in immediate use for the safeguard of the country, the said governour has already directed the proper officers to carve on every matchlock the name of the person to whom it is delivered, and to preserve a general register of the whole. Let the governour also give strict charge to make diligent search, and prevent the illicit storing up of firearms for the future ; and let the workers in iron be rigidly looked after, lest they clandestinely manufacture and sell them ; the evil may thus be cut off in its commencement. Those officers who have made full and complete musters within the limited period, the governour is directed to notice properly as an encouragement to others." Those Chinese near Canton, who employ themselves in shooting wild-fowl for sale, are said to belong mostly to the militia of the province.[7]

During the New Policies Reform era of the late Qing, the government allowed the ordinary civilians to own firearms (matchlock or modern foreign gun) for self-defense. This policy lasted until the foundation of the People's Republic of China in 1949.[citation needed]

In Taiwan under Qing rule the Hakka on Taiwan owned matchlock muskets. Han people traded and sold matchlock muskets to the Taiwanese aborigines. The Aboriginals used their matchlock muskets to defeat the Americans in the Formosa Expedition. During the Sino-French War the Hakka and Aboriginals used their matchlock muskets against the French in the Keelung Campaign and Battle of Tamsui.

Liu Mingchuan took measures to reinforce Tamsui, in the river nine torpedo mines were planted and the entrance was blocked with ballast boats filled with stone which were sunk on September 3, matchlock armed "Hakka hill people" were used to reinforce the mainland Chinese battalion, and around the British Consulate and Customs House at the Red Fort hilltop, Shanghai Arsenal manufactured Krupp guns were used to form an additional battery.[8]

At Tamsui, the entrance of the river had been closed by laying down six torpedoes in the shape of a semi-circle on the inside of the bar. The Douglas steamers Fokien and Hailoong running to the port, as well as the German steamer Welle, were, whenever necessary, piloted over the torpedoes by the Chinese who had laid them down. The mandarins engaged in planting the guns that had been brought to the island by the latter steamer.

Trade was resumed during the middle of the month at Twatutia, it being regarded for the time as safe, and the country thereabouts had quieted down to such an extent that a good deal of tea was brought in. Life for the foreigners was very much cramped. They were prohibited from making trips into the country; and even in the settlement, with religious processions, crackers, and, gongs going at all times of day, and the watchmen making a great noise with bamboos all night, rest was well nigh impossible except to the Chinese guards told off to protect foreign hongs, who after disappearing all day, except at meal times, "return at night, and instead of guarding the property, turn in early and sleep as soundly as Rip van Winkle did till morning."

Under the impression that the French would attempt to enter the Tamsui river, ballast boats and junks loaded with stones were sunk at the entrance. A number of Hakka hillmen were added to the government force. They were armed with their own matchlocks, which in their ignc ranee they preferred to foreign rifles. Much was expected of them, as the life of warfare they had led on the savage border had trained them to be good shots and handy with their knives. By the end of August the French had succeeded in holding the shore line at Kelung, but were unable to advance beyond it; and as Chinese soldiers had for some days been erecting earthworks and digging entrenchments on the hills on the east side of the bay overlooking the shipping, the French sent word ashore for the Europeans to come on board the Bayard, as they intended opening fire on the earthworks which were now just visible.1 The firing was not successful either that day or the next, the nature of the country being in favor of the Chinese; and for many days the shelling was a regular event, the Chinese not apparently suffering much damage themselves, or being able to inflict any upon the French. This condition of affairs continued through September, the French having gained only the summits of the near hills surrounding the harbor.

General Liu Ming-chuan left Kelung on the 9th to visit Tamsui and Taipehfu. On his arrival at the latter place he was met at the wharf by some 200 soldiers, 5 buglers, and 2 or 3 drummers. The march up the street with the soldiers in front, the band next, and the general in the rear in his chair, made an imposing parade. His presence is also said to have had a most stimulating effect on the soldiers on guard in the foreign hongs. All appeared in full force with uniforms and rifles, although for several days the muster in one hong had produced only one soldier and a boy in a soldier's coat.

— James Wheeler Davidson, "The island of Formosa, past and present: History, people, resources, and commercial prospects. Tea, camphor, sugar, gold, coal, sulphur, economical plants, and other productions, 1903,[9] also published as "The Island of Formosa: Historical View from 1430 to 1900"[10]

Liu Ming-chuan with some 6,000 men was stationed at Taipehfu in the Banka plain, while the forces at Hobe were daily strengthened, until, in the middle of October, there were assembled about 6,000 men in the neighborhood. Among these were new levies of Hakka hillmen. They were considered by the foreigners to be a dangerous lot to have in the neighborhood, and as they did not speak the same language as the general and other officers, it was feared that misunderstandings might arise with serious results. The other soldiers present were principally northern men, and were said to be well armed. The Hakkas, although armed with their primitive matchlocks, were considered to be brave men and were hardened to the privations of warfare. Their matchlocks are described as long-barrelled guns, fixed into semi-circular shaped stocks, with pans for priming powder, and armlets made of rattan, worn around the right wrist and containing pieces of bark-cord, which, when lighted, would keep alight for hours, if necessary. When in action the Hakka pours a charge of powder down the muzzle; on top of that are dropped two or three slug shot or long pieces of iron, withouL wadding. The trigger is made to receive the lighted piece of bark, and when powder covers the priming pan and all is ready, • the trigger is pulled and if,—if the weather is dry, off goes the gun. The ordinary method of handling these weapons is to place the lower end of the butt against the right breast, high enough to enable the curved end to rest against the cheek, and the eye to look down the large barrel, upon which there are ordinarily no sights. This method is sometimes varied by discharging the guns from the hip, and it is quite customary for the Hakka to lie flat on his back, place the muzzle between his toes, and, raising his head sufficiently to sight along the barrel, to take deliberate aim and fire. He is able to make good practice; while his presence, especially when surrounded by rank grass, is decidedly difficult to determine.

Rev. Dr. Mackay's Tamsui Mission Hospital, with Dr. Johansen in charge, which had rendered such great services to the Chinese wounded and had no doubt been the means of saving many lives, was visited on the 19th by General Sun, who thanked the doctor in charge as well as Dr. Browne of the Cockcliafer (who had given valuable assistance) for their attentions to the sick and wounded. The patients then numbered only a dozen, a good many of the wounded having left, fearing that the French might land again and kill them; others, seeing their wounds healing nicely, went away into the town. One man who had been shot through the left shoulder, in the region of the collar bone, after a week or ten days' treatment suddenly shouldered his rifle and left for the front, preferring life with his comrades to being confined in the hospital. It was supposed that the bullet had pierced the upper part of his lungs. Another instance occurred seven days after the French landing, when a Chinese walked into the hospital with his skull wounded and the brain visible. Several others, shot through the thighs and arms, bones being splintered in many pieces, bore their pain most heroically. Soon after the engagement, when there were seventy men in the hospital, some being badly wounded with as many as three shots apiece, there was scarcely a groan to be heard. One of the wounded came to the hospital after having had a bullet in his calf for nine or ten days. Dr. Browne extracted the bullet, and off the man went back to the front. Many other instances like the foregoing might be recorded, all of which indicated that the Chinese could recover in a few days from wounds, which, if not actually fatal, would have laid foreign soldiers up for months.

— James Wheeler Davidson, "The island of Formosa, past and present: History, people, resources, and commercial prospects. Tea, camphor, sugar, gold, coal, sulphur, economical plants, and other productions, 1903,[11] also published as "The Island of Formosa: Historical View from 1430 to 1900"[12]

Lin Ch'ao-tung (林朝棟) was the leader of the Hakka militia recruited by Liu Ming-ch'uan.[13]

The Hakka used their matchlock muskets to resist the Japanese invasion of Taiwan (1895) and Han Taiwanese and Aboriginals conducted an insurgency against Japanese rule. The Beipu uprising, Tapani incident.

During Japan's rule on Taiwan, Japan implemented anti-gun laws against the Taiwanese aborigines. This led to the outbreak of armed insurrection by Aboriginals against the Japanese in response to the Japanese confiscating Aboriginal guns. The Bunun and Atayal were described as the "most ferocious" Aboriginals, and police stations were targeted by Aboriginals in intermittent assaults.[14] By January 1915, all Aboriginals in northern Taiwan were forced to hand over their guns to the Japanese, however head hunting and assaults on police stations by Aboriginals still continued after that year.[15][16] Between 1921 and 1929 Aboriginal raids died down, but a major revival and surge in Aboriginal armed resistance erupted from 1930–1933 for four years during which the Wushe Incident occurred and Bunun carried out raids, after which armed conflict again died down.[17] According to a 1933 yearbook, wounded people in the Japanese war against the Aboriginals numbered around 4,160, with 4,422 civilians dead and 2,660 military personnel killed.[18] According to a 1935 report, 7,081 Japanese were killed in the armed struggle from 1896–1933 while the Japanese confiscated 29,772 Aboriginal guns by 1933.[19] The Bunun Aboriginals under Chief Raho Ari 拉荷·阿雷 (lāhè· āléi) engaged in guerilla warfare against the Japanese for twenty years. Raho Ari's revolt, called the Dafen incident w:zh:大分事件 was sparked when the Japanese implemented a gun control policy in 1914 against the Aboriginals in which their rifles were impounded in police stations when hunting expeditions were over. The revolt began at Dafen when a police platoon was slaughtered by Raho Ari's clan in 1915. A settlement holding 266 people called Tamaho was created by Raho Ari and his followers near the source of the Laonong River and attracted more Bunun rebels to their cause. Raho Ari and his followers captured bullets and guns and slew Japanese in repeated hit and run raids against Japanese police stations by infiltrating over the Japanese "guardline" of electrified fences and police stations as they pleased.[20]

Modern era[edit]

Firearms can be used by law enforcement, the military and paramilitary, or security personnel protecting property of state importance (including the arms industry, financial institutions, storage of resources, and scientific research institutions).

Civilian ownership of firearms is largely restricted to non-individual entities such as sporting organisations, hunting reserves, and wildlife protection, management and research organizations. The chief exception to the general ban for individual gun ownership is for the purpose of hunting.[21]

Individuals who hold hunting permits can apply to purchase and hold firearms for the purpose of hunting.[22] Illegal possession or sale of firearms may result in a minimum punishment of 3 years in prison, with the maximum being the death penalty.[23]

The possession of traditional smoothbore blackpowder muskets is allowed to some Miao hill people, the so-called Miao gun tribes, as an essential element of traditional dress and culture;[24] however, possession of gunpowder is regulated.

Even airsoft guns are tightly regulated[25] and violation may lead to a criminal conviction for illegal possession of firearms.[26]

Guns and knives which were not logged and were unlawful were seized.[27] Limitations were placed on knife vending due to terrorism and violent assaults where they were utilized.[28]

Special Administrative Regions[edit]

Firearm ownership in the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau is tightly controlled and possession is mainly in the hands of law enforcement, military, or private security firms (providing protection for jewelers and banks). Still, possessing, manufacturing, importing, or exporting airsoft guns with a muzzle energy not above two joules of kinetic energy is legal to citizens in China's SARs.

Firearms control was inherited during British and Portuguese rule and more or less retained today. Under the Section 13 of Cap 238 Firearms and Ammunition Ordinance of the Hong Kong law, unrestricted firearms and ammunition requires a license.[29] Those found in possession without a license could be fined HKD$100,000 and imprisonment for up to 14 years.[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kenneth Warren Chase (7 July 2003). Firearms: A Global History to 1700. Cambridge University Press. p. 144. ISBN 978-0-521-82274-9.
  2. ^ 203-204
  3. ^ 《廣東新語》卷十六,《器語》
  4. ^ "廣東新語/卷02". Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  5. ^ "Gun Control, Qing Style". Manchu Studies Group. Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  6. ^ Edward J. M. Rhoads (2000). Manchus and Han: Ethnic Relations and Political Power in Late Qing and Early Republican China, 1861–1928. University of Washington Press. p. 57. ISBN 978-0-295-98040-9.
  7. ^ The Family Magazine. J. A. James & Company. 1837. p. 309.
  8. ^ Maritime Taiwan: Historical Encounters with the East and the West. M.E. Sharpe. 2009. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-7656-4189-2.
  9. ^ [1] Davidson, pp. 223–4.
  10. ^ Davidson, pp. 223–4.
  11. ^ [2] Davidson, pp. 230–1.
  12. ^ Davidson, pp. 230–1.
  13. ^ Rouil, 60–61
  14. ^ The Japan Year Book 1937, p. 1004.
  15. ^ The Japan Year Book. Japan Year Book Office. 1937. p. 1004.
  16. ^ Katsuji Inahara (1937). The Japan Year Book. Foreign Affairs Association of Japan. p. 1004.
  17. ^ Tsong-yuan Lin (1995). 人類學與博物館國際學術研討會論文專輯. Taiwan Museum. p. 84. ISBN 978-957-9497-32-9.
  18. ^ The Japan Year Book. Japan Year Book Office. 1933. p. 1139.
  19. ^ Japan's progress number ... July, 1935. 1935. p. 19.
  20. ^ Steven Crook (2014). Taiwan. Bradt Travel Guides. p. 16. ISBN 978-1-84162-497-6.
  21. ^ "中华人民共和国枪支管理法 (Firearm Administration Law of the People's Republic of China)".
  22. ^ "中华人民共和国猎枪弹具管理办法 (Hunting Firearm, Ammunition and Equipment Administration Regulation of the People's Republic of China)".
  23. ^ "China Reiterates Stance on Gun Control".
  24. ^ Lee, Jason (23 August 2013). "China's Last Armed Village". Reuters.
  25. ^ ""Public Security Bureau notice of "Recognized standard of an imitation gun"" (Legal issues in airsoft)".
  26. ^ Lee, Jason (23 August 2013). Plastic News Missing or empty |title= (help)
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^ "Do not carry restricted items in Hong Kong". Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  30. ^ "CAP 238 FIREARMS AND AMMUNITION ORDINANCE s 13 Possession of arms or ammunition without licence". Retrieved 26 March 2016.