2015 TO CURRENT
2015 TO CURRENT
Combatting Wildlife Crime: Strategy for Enhanced Enforcement Action in Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s proximity to China, its free trade policy, port infrastructure 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.
Whilst there are many NGOs in Hong Kong working on different aspects or species involved in the wildlife trade /crime, there is a need to address the systemic problem collectively. ADMCF therefore convened 15+ groups and individuals working on wildlife trade in Hong Kong to work collaboratively in some of the key strategic areas. In doing so, we formed The Hong Kong Wildlife Trade Working Group.
In December 2015, the Working Group produced its first comprehensive meta-analysis of wildlife crime, focusing on Hong Kong’s role in the international trade and identifying the key challenges. In March 2016, ADMCF and the University of Hong Kong subsequently hosted a legal seminar to engage the judiciary and policy makers on legal reform.
Early in 2016, Hong Kong’s policy address indicated the HKSAR government would work towards a ban on the sale and trade of all ivory. It has since released a timeline of five years until the enforcement of a total ban and has revised the maximum penalties available for wildlife trade offences.
In early 2019, ADMCF launched its latest report on Hong Kong’s role in the international wildlife trade, entitled ‘Trading in Extinction: The Dark Side of Hong Kong’s Wildlife Trade’. The report consolidates a large body of pre-existing work and reconciles this with a snapshot of Hong Kong’s seizure data. It aimed to update and, for the first time, illustrate the extent and nature of the wildlife trade and wildlife crime in Hong Kong. It demonstrated that not only is the trade in legal and illegal wildlife at a significant and unsustainable scale, it is likely to get worse. Further, while Hong Kong plays a primary role in connecting trafficked products with their illegal markets, the Administration should and could do more to disrupt the associated criminal activity.
Immediately following the launch of the report, ADMCF also facilitated a second wildlife crime seminar, ‘Tipping the Scales against Hong Kong’s Illegal Wildlife Trade’. Leading wildlife experts, investigators, government representatives, lawmakers and legal professionals joined us to highlight the urgency and continued need to combat the illegal wildlife trade. In doing so it examined the evolving situation in Hong Kong, as well as the implications of Hong Kong’s recent legislative amendments and what more needs to be done if the city is to respond effectively to its role in the global extinction crisis..