Tusk force: Hong Kong lawmakers back motion calling for crackdown on city's ivory trade

Government open to eventual ban on dealing in endangered species in city after non-binding motion wins overwhelming support in Legco

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 December, 2015, 12:02am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 December, 2015, 12:31pm

The government said it was open to tougher action against trade in endangered animal species - including an eventual ban on ivory trade in Hong Kong - after legislators yesterday overwhelmingly passed a motion calling on authorities to step up efforts.

The non-binding motion by Elizabeth Quat of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong asks the government to step up enforcement against smuggling of ivory tusks and other species. This includes increasing penalties and a move towards a ban on domestic trade in ivory.

READ MORE: Hong Kong government ‘open-minded’ about ivory ban in major policy shift

The motion was passed with support of 37 out of 38 legislators across the political spectrum.

They also passed an amendment, raised by the Civic Party's Claudia Mo Man-ching, urging the government to legislate against the sale or re-export of products containing ingredients extracted from endangered species using inhumane methods. These included Chinese medicines containing ingredients from bear gall bladders.

Quat said Hong Kong's reputation had been tainted as it became known as an international trading point for smuggled endangered animal species, including ivory tusks, rhino horns, fish maws and shark fins.

It had also been listed by the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species as one of nine countries or regions of concern.

Quat said an eventual ban on the ivory trade was needed to stop the flow of tusks, especially to the mainland. She said the DAB would ask Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to add this initiative to his 2016 policy address.

Lawmakers said allowing licensed traders to sell ivory stock registered before 1990 gave rise to "ivory laundering" - where shops renewed stock with fresh ivory.

"A wildlife organisation was told by an ivory trader in the city during an undercover investigation that the shop would renew their stock with illegal ivory to maintain their registered level," the Civic Party's Kwok Ka-ki said.

Acting Secretary for the Environment Christine Loh Kung-wai said the government was open to measures proposed.

However, as there were licensed ivory traders with existing stocks, it would focus on stepping up controls before making any decision on a ban on the trade.

"We are also closely monitoring the latest national and international developments in the control of ivory and will update our strategy and measures as and when is necessary," she said.

Lo said measures already in place included comprehensive stocktaking of "pre-ban" ivory, stepping up import and re- export control of ivory that can be legally traded, and carbon dating to determine the age of tusks.