The rise of e-commerce in China has touched almost every sector of the economy – including an increasingly popular black market for DIY fire arms.
For less than $100 one can buy the parts, tools and instructions for making a homemade shotgun. There have been a number of arrests this year amid a crackdown on the practice, with police swooping on gangs of online gunrunners.
Most recently, two men from Shanxi province were arrested last month for having a small arsenal of guns, firearms parts and ammunition they had bought online on Taobao, the popular Chinese e-commerce website owned by Alibaba, which listed in New York in September in the largest ever initial public offering and which later today releases its debut set of results as a listed company.
Police said the suspects had bought and sold gun parts and bullets on Taobao, and used QQ, an online chat app owned by Tencent, another Chinese internet giant, to find clients and give online tutorials.
Online trading in illegal fire arms has soared in the past three years, according to Ma Ding, dean of the Institute of Network security at the People's Public Security University of China, which trains elite police officers.
"The internet has provided a more convenient channel through which buyers and sellers far away can reach each other," she said. "There is now easier access to the materials and components."