Probe launched over claims endangered pangolin served at banquet to Chinese officials
Allegation made in social media post causes outcry on the internet in China
An investigation is underway in southern China after allegations that local government officials were served pangolin, an endangered species of animal, at a banquet also attended by a Hong Kong businessman.
The allegations came to light after pictures of the banquet in the Guangxi region were published on social media, causing an outcry.
The banquet happened two years ago and the person who posted the photographs - saying the meal had been ordered by a local government director - was only referred to by their user name Ah-cal.
A group of Hong Kong businessmen issued a statement on Wednesday saying the person who posted the images was a fellow businessman Lee Ka-wo.
The anticorruption agency in Guangxi said in a statement the same day that a group of Hong Kong businessmen had visited the region for a three-day trip in 2015.
It said one of the Hong Kong businessmen stayed in Nanning at the end of the visit and attended a private banquet.
The meal was not organised by the local government, but a former director of a local education institute attended called Li Ningyi, the statement said.
Li was arrested for corruption charges last year, the statement added, but it did not say if his arrest was connected in any way to the banquet.
The authorities are still investigating whether pangolins were served at the meal.
A group of Hong Kong industrial, commerce, cultural and tourism entrepreneurs who went on the trip placed an advertisement in the Hong Kong newspaper Wen Wei Po saying they all returned home after three days, except for Lee.
“Lee Ka-wo didn’t join the group going back to Hong Kong and stayed to tour in Guangxi voluntarily with his friends, which induced the pangolin incident,” the statement said. “[Him] consuming pangolin meat had nothing to do with Guangxi investment research trip.”
The entrepreneurs also criticised Lee for lacking understanding of mainland laws and regulations and said he should “deeply reflect on his inappropriate behaviour”.
Pangolins, the world’s most trafficked mammal, have suffered a rapid decline in numbers due to demand for their meat and scales in China and Vietnam.
The 182 nations in the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species, including China, voted in September to impose a total ban on international trade in all eight pangolin species.