Mr President, I thank the Honorable Elizabeth Quat for moving the motion on “strengthening the combat against the crime of wildlife smuggling” to bring the attention of our society to this grave matter.
As a global citizen, for each of us, and for Hong Kong as a whole, we bear a responsibility for the earth, our environment, our fellow inhabitants of this earth, and for the future of our planet, and those we will continue to share this planet with, in a balanced and sustainable ecology. This applies to the global climate change talks happening in Paris right now, as much as it applies to the subject of our motion today, the ivory trade that is killing African elephants, and the bear gall bladder trade that is torturing and killing bears in the Mainland and other countries, as in the motion amended by the Honorable Claudia Mo.
On September 25, President Xi Jinping of China and US President Barack Obama jointly pledged to take “significant and timely steps” to halt commercial ivory trade. Today, we are calling for our government to take at least some “significant and timely steps.”
Indeed, after President Xi’s words, he followed with action on October 15 – China announced a one-year ban on the import of ivory hunting trophies from Africa, closing what was considered to be a big loophole.
From past experience in conservation, permitting sales actually always became a cover for illegal trade. In 1999 and 2008, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species allowed the sale of stockpiles of ivory from southern Africa to China. The countries claimed that the money earned would go toward conservation causes. Oh sure. The numbers in fact are telling us that such concession would fuel more smuggling and more killing of elephants. This is exactly what is happening in Hong Kong.
So, in 2010-12, about 100,000 elephants were slain. In Mozambique and Tanzania, just within the last five years, half of their elephants were killed.
As many of the members of this council who have spoken today have expressed, much of the ivory sale and trade is going to mainland buyers who buy the tusks and ivory products in Hong Kong, and then smuggle them back in to China. A survey by WildAid in May this year found that over 75% of Hong Kong’s local residents disapproved ivory sales. An investigation by a Tanzanian conservation group Save The Elephants further found that 90% of ivory buyers in Hong Kong were bought and smuggled back to China by Mainlanders.
For Hong Kong not to totally ban all ivory trading and retail sale, it is simply causing a loophole for the Mainland, and going against the stated policy for the People’s Republic of China, and fueling further corruption in China, something that our nation’s leaders have been furiously trying to stamp out. There is simply no excuse. To put it more directly, government bureaucracy is no excuse.
The Honorable Claudia Mo’s amendment put further focus on the trading of bear gall bladders and their extracts. There is a subtle difference between the trading of this and ivory. While ivory trade has to do with a small number of traders and sellers here making a lot of money from primarily buyers in China, bear gall bladder extracts are bought by Hong Kong people, imported from China. In that sense, it is even more critical for the Hong Kong government to take action for a demand generated and mistakenly allowed to continue in Hong Kong.
So, I believe it is absolutely correct and totally justified for the Honorable Claudia Mo to demand actions from our chief executive due to his empty words before he took office and his subsequent inaction. CY Leung is responsible for both stopping Hong Kong as a haven for ivory trade in to China, which is totally opposite to the policy set out by President Xi Jinping, as well as ending Hong Kong as a buyer for bear gall bladder extract, which continues to damage China’s reputation.
Saying anything otherwise is simply politicizing the issue on hand, and overprotecting our chief executive. You might as well save that loving care for the elephants, bears, rhinos, and other more lovely wildlife animals.
To close, I like to draw your attention to this picture on the cover of a Save The Elephants report – an ivory figure of the Chinese god of longevity. It is so ironic that this supposedly figure of good wishes is made from blood, gore and killing of an innocent, free animal. Let us remind ourselves, and I recap a caption I saw from a recent Economist article on the same subject, “it looks better on an elephant.” Let’s keep it there.
Thank you Mr President.