Hong Kong’s proximity to China, its free trade policy, port nfrastructure and regulatory structure have allowed the city to become a hub for trafficking wildlife and wildlife products. Annually, more illegal seizures are made at the international border between Hong Kong and mainland China than at any other border in China.
Until recently, the Hong Kong Government refused to acknowledge the city as a wildlife trafficking hub. Nevertheless, HKSAR authorities continue to encounter large volumes and high value consignments of illegal wildlife, including ivory, shark fin, live reef food fish, pangolins, totoaba, a range of exotic pets, rhino horn, manta ray, to name a few. In addition, Hong Kong faces poaching and laundering of threatened native species.
The Hong Kong Government regularly seizes wildlife contraband, however, the penalties we have seen being handed down have been low. Informed by our research, event where successful prosecutions take place, the maximum penalties have not been given and deterrent sentencing is lacking. There are insufficient wildlife crime offence provisions in local laws and the Hong Kong Police and its specialised task forces are seldom involved in investigating, despite the extremely high value of the contraband and links with organised criminal syndicates.