US embargo on Taipei under fire

A WILDLIFE conservation group criticised United States President Bill Clinton for letting China off the hook while imposing mild sanction against Taiwan over trading of tiger products.

Chairman of the Suffolk-based Tiger Trust, Michael Day, said in Hong Kong yesterday that Mr Clinton was poised to impose trade sanctions against Taiwan because of the nation's ''flagrant violations'' of the agreement to curb trade in tiger products.

Instead of taking punitive measures against China, the biggest consumer nation of tiger products, the US will announce today an embargo on all wildlife products from Taiwan.

Taiwan earns US$25 million (HK$193 million) annually from its wildlife exports to the US, according to Mr Day.

While arguing that mild trade sanctions would not be enough, Mr Day urged that the same kind of sanctions should be imposed on China as well.

China maintained, during United Nations discussions on the tiger trade last November, that Taiwan remained a part of the People's Republic, so that sanctions against Taiwan might well have a profound effect on Beijing.

A recent Tiger Trust videotape showed a senior Chinese state official in Harbin, the capital city of Heilongjiang province officiating at a tiger bone burning ceremony.

But the products burned were fakes.

A number of state-run factories continued to produce vast quantities of genuine tiger bone products, the videotape showed.

The scenes were in sharp contrast to previous impressions given to a top level UN delegation that visited China last February.

The delegation gave Beijing a clean bill of health.

Mr Day said the tape had been presented to both Washington and Beijing, and had convinced Mr Clinton to place trade restrictions on Taiwan for the sake of saving wildlife.