About 20 people gathered outside the Museum of Art in Tsim Sha Tsui yesterday morning to protest against an exhibition of artefacts made from rhino horn and elephant ivory.
The demonstrators, many of them children, waved placards outside the Salisbury Road museum, accusing it of benefiting the black-market trade in the items.
The museum is hosting until September 28 the exhibition of 270 Ming (1368-1644) and Qing dynasty (1644-1911) objects made exclusively for the imperial court. The artefacts are from local man C.P.Lin's personal collection.
Among the items on display are two 20cm elephant-ivory carvings and more than a dozen rhino-horn cups.
"The museum is staging a marketing campaign for this illegal business without even realising it," Hong Kong Humane Education Coalition coordinator Rosana Ng Mei-fung said, adding that a kilogram of rhino horn cost about US$38,000 on the black market.
An exhibition of rhino-horn artefacts would encourage visitors to aspire to own similar items, and help push up the price, she said.
Citing figures from the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, Ng said at least 496 rhinos were killed for their horns in the first half of this year alone. Last year, more than 1,000 rhinos were killed, she said.
Young environmentalist Liu Chun-wei, eight, said rhino horns should not be extracted because "it must be very painful for the rhinos".
Concern group WildLifeRisk's director, Alex Hofford, said there was no solid scientific evidence to suggest that rhino horns had medical benefits.
The group submitted a letter to the museum yesterday, urging it to remove the elephant-ivory and rhino-horn artefacts.
A spokeswoman for the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which manages the museum, said that the items were on display to celebrate and educate the public on the treasures of the past.
"The museum and the collector, Mr C.P.Lin, unreservedly support safeguarding the dwindling populations of African elephants and rhinoceroses in the wild, and combating illegal poaching and trading," she said.