Hong Kong’s new higher penalties strike harder at illegal trade in endangered species
- Increased penalties for the smuggling of endangered species send a clear message to the public about the seriousness of such offences
I refer to the article, “Time to get tough on wildlife trafficking” (February 1). I would like to reiterate that the Hong Kong SAR government is committed to the protection of endangered species. Hong Kong regulates the trade in endangered species under the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance (Cap 586), which is the local legislation that gives effect to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
To combat the illegal ivory trade and contribute to the global efforts in protecting wild elephants, the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants (Amendment) Ordinance 2018 was passed by the Legislative Council on January 31 last year and it took effect on May 1, taking forward the ivory phase-out plan and increasing the penalties under the Ordinance.
To provide a stronger deterrent against the smuggling and illegal trading of endangered species, the penalties for violating the ordinance have been increased since May 1, 2018, and are applicable to all scheduled species under the ordinance. The maximum penalty, on indictment, is now a fine of HK$10 million and imprisonment for 10 years.
It was observed that with effect of increased maximum penalties under the amendment ordinance, the sentences laid have been significantly increased for recent cases. For instance, an illegal importer of 3.1kg of rhino horn was tried at the District Court and the sentence laid was an imprisonment of eight months after one-third deduction, as the offender pleaded guilty.
Another example was an illegal export of 2.6kg wood chips of incense tree for which the sentence laid was a jail term of 24 months after one-third deduction. The sentences laid in similar conviction cases before the implementation of the amendment ordinance were about two to four weeks’ imprisonment and two months’ imprisonment, respectively. The increased penalties send a clear message to the public about the seriousness of such offences.
Smuggling of endangered species is a transnational crime. The joint effort of different parties, including the source, transit and places of consumption, is required. For instance, the recent successful large seizure of 8.3 tonnes of pangolin scales and 2.1 tonnes of ivory from Nigeria by sea container was made possible by acting on information from mainland customs officers. The AFCD will continue to take vigorous enforcement actions against smuggling and illegal trade in endangered species and we will strengthen our collaboration with all concerned parties in fighting against this illegal trade.
Simon Chan, assistant director (Conservation), Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department