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 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 of illegal wildlife consignments, 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 penalties are low. Where successful prosecutions take place, the maximum penalties are rarely 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 crime 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 a 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 proposed an upward revision in penalties for wildlife trafficking offences.
Unfortunately, the proposed penalty revisions do not recognise the serious and organised nature of wildlife crime or the lack of offence provisions, and will not address the challenges faced. ADMCF therefore continues to work on a strategy for enhanced enforcement action.