First person

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 December, 2006, 12:00am

University research assistnat Carmen Wong Ka-man, 22, was an organiser of a December 2 vigilfor the essential 100,000 dogs killed in an anti-rabies campaign on the mainland. The bad publicity and extensive news coverage of the campaign resulted in the central government ordering a halt to the slaughter this week.

I've never been involved in any campaign like this before. But what has been happening in China caused me so much pain that I felt I had to do something.

The first I heard about the killings was through the internet in November. People from Beijing began posting photographs and stories on Hong Kong discussion forums to let us know what was going on.

We now know that the mass dog killings began in summer in Yunnan province . The local government used rabies as an excuse and killed more than 50,000 dogs. It wasn't just strays - they targeted all dogs. Some of the dogs had been vaccinated against rabies but they killed them all the same.

Then, in late October, officials in Beijing announced a new policy and imposed very strict regulations on dogs. They state each family can only have one dog and dogs more than 35cm tall cannot be raised in the city.

Some people took their dogs away to rural areas. Other people had their pets forcibly taken away. The owners are stopped and the dogs confiscated when they take them out for a walk.

People in Beijing told us about one case filmed by a TV crew involving a man who went out for a walk with his puppy. Police approached him and asked him to hand the dog over even though the dog was less than 35cm tall.

The owner objected but the police said the dog would grow to more than 35cm so they wanted to take it from him. The owner argued but they sent more backup.

In the end, the man kicked his little dog to try to make it run away, but the dog wouldn't leave him, and it was caught and taken away as the owner cried.

Stories like that made me very sad. While we prepared for our vigil on December 2, we saw lots of pictures and heard many stories. Most of them are very touching and some of the pictures show some terrible cruelty.

There are pictures of police or officials beating dogs. We have heard of some cases where they take dogs away, deprive them of food and water for a few days then run electricity though a pool. They then let the dogs out and when the dogs go to drink the water, they are electrocuted.

We gave a presentation of these cases at the meeting on December 2 and many people there cried. We feel the event was very successful in terms of raising awareness. We collected more than 800 signatures and we guess there were about 1,000 people at the meeting. We will hand those signatures to Beijing.

People told us they had come because they believe what is happening on the mainland is cruel. They want to ask those responsible to stop.

One solution might be a rabies vaccination campaign. We are looking at co-ordinating with a large organisation on the mainland and giving money to vets to vaccinate the dogs.

At the moment, we are powerless and the dogs are powerless. The central government says the dogs are being culled because of rabies.

We guess they are doing it because it is the easiest method. They think killing dogs saves money and also helps officials to get money. If a dog violates the new regulations, they can get 2,000 to 10,000 yuan from the owner in fines. So money is quite important in all of this.

Rabies can be prevented and cured, so we suggest the government should adopt a more moderate method. This also would help build a more positive image for the mainland overseas.

What is happening really puts pain in our hearts. All of us love dogs and we also love our country. We hope the central government can loosen its dog management policy.