HONG KONG – Wildlife activists gathered outside the Legislative Council in Hong Kong on Wednesday as lawmakers prepared to vote on a bill to protect endangered species of plants and animals.
Around 70 demonstrators associated with WildAid Hong Kong picketed near the Special Administrative Region’s parliament to call for the passage of a bill that would increase protections for endangered species and stiffen punishments for those who violate them.
Politicians from both sides of the aisle appear to be supportive of the bill, and no counter-demonstrators turned up outside the Council, an epa journalist reported.
Though Hong Kong abides by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (“CITES”), and despite a ban in mainland China that took effect last year, the trade of ivory has continued in Hong Kong, leading to calls from conservationists to increase the SAR’s protections of endangered species.
On Wednesday, Hong Kong’s Legislative Council was due to hold a second reading vote on a draft bill which would amend the current legislation to increase punishments for those who violate the CITES, including penalties of up to HK$10,000,000 ($1,278,000) and a jail term of 10 years.
The proposed bill will “enhance regulation on import and re-export of elephant ivory and elephant hunting trophies and to phase out the local ivory trade,” and provide a “stronger deterrent against the smuggling and illegal trading of endangered species.”
There remain several shops in Hong Kong that openly sell ivory tusks, although shopkeepers claim that they are Wooly Mammoth fossils recovered from the permafrost rather than from elephant poaching.