Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ‘HK fails to tackle illegal wildlife smuggling’

‘HK fails to tackle illegal wildlife smuggling’

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Seized endangered pangolin scales on display in Hong Kong. AFP

‘HK fails to tackle illegal wildlife smuggling’

Hong Kong must do more to crack down on illegal wildlife smuggling by ending legal loopholes and lenient sentences, conservation groups said on Monday, as they detailed the city’s role in the lucrative trade.

Despite its comparatively small size, the bustling southern Chinese transport hub plays a “disproportionate” role in wildlife crime, researchers said, accounting for around a fifth of all global ivory seizures and nearly half of all pangolins seized in the last decade.

Yet authorities do not list wildlife trafficking offences under the city’s organised crime legislation targeting drug traffickers and triad gangs – and the few who are caught rarely face stiff penalties, the report’s authors warn.

“Wildlife crime in Hong Kong remains under-policed and under-investigated,” said Amanda Whitfort, a professor at Hong Kong University’s Faculty of Law and one of the report’s authors.

“Wildlife smuggling is not regarded as organised and serious crime under Hong Kong law,” she added.

The study by Hong Kong Wildlife Trade Working Group, a coalition of local groups, offers one of the most detailed analyses yet on smuggling rackets in the city.

Researchers compiled and analysed 379 seizures from government departments, court cases, media reports and NGOs from January 2013 to December 2017 to assess the extent of the trade.

Researchers said the amount of parts seized in the city for three major trafficked species since 2013 could equate to the deaths of “3,000 elephants, 65,000 pangolins and 51 rhinoceros”.

But they warned the actual volume being trafficked through Hong Kong could be five to 10 times the size of seizures.

Over the last decade Hong Kong estimates the value of smuggling has grown by some 1,600 per cent while the diversity of endangered species has increased 57 per cent.

Hong Kong has long served as a key gateway to China’s mainland where there is huge demand for illegal and endangered wildlife parts.

The report detailed many of the ways crime gangs have snuck their quarry into the city, from so-called “ant smugglers” who arrive by commercial airplane with as much as 30kg of ivory sewn into their clothing, to loot hidden inside cargo ships heading to the world’s fifth busiest port.

An analysis of convictions in the last five years showed sentences ranged from community service to eight months jail and fines of HK$1,500 to HK$180,000 ($191 to $22,900), far below maximum penalties. Criminals who were prosecuted tended to be low-level carriers, leaving the kingpins untouched.

“It is evident that there are numerous operations relying on Hong Kong, at the very least as a transit port, and in the worst case as a base of operations and/or money laundering,” the authors wrote.

China finally banned the ivory trade a year ago while Hong Kong began phasing it out a few months later.

The city has also recently increased the maximum penalties on smuggling to 10 years in jail and a HK$10 million fine.

Sophie Le Clue, one of the report authors, said increasing the penalties available to prosecutors was a step in the right direction.

“But there’s no point having a penalty raise if all you’re going to do is take the mules,” she said.

“What we really want to see is those behind the syndicates in the courts to take down the networks.”


  • Municipal hall releases map detailing colour coded Covid risks by commune

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng released an official map detailing the red, yellow and dark yellow zones within the city under the new lockdown orders for Phnom Penh announced on April 26. The designation of red, dark yellow and yellow corresponds to areas with high,

  • Phnom Penh unveils rules for post-lockdown transition

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration issued a set of detailed guidelines for the seven days to May 12 after the capital emerges from lockdown at the onset of May 6. In the 14-page document signed by municipal governor Khuong Sreng released on the evening of May 5, the

  • SBI LY HOUR Bank Launches Cross Border Money Transfer Service between Cambodia and Vietnam on RippleNet, utilizing DLT

    SBI LY HOUR Bank Plc and Hanoi-based Tien Phong Commercial Joint Stock Bank (TPBank) on Friday launched the first Cambodia-Vietnam money transfer service in real currency via RippleNet, provided by SBI Ripple Asia Co Ltd to provide safe, fast and convenient services. SBI LY HOUR

  • Gov’t issues guidelines as lockdown nears end

    The government has issued a five-page set of instructions to be enforced when the three-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province ends on May 6. According to an announcement signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 4, the instructions cover a

  • Cambodia ready to exit LDC status

    Cambodia is well-prepared to minimise economic risks when it graduates from its Least Developed Countries status, according to a senior official at the Ministry of Commerce on May 7. Four LDCs – Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh and Nepal – met at a virtual workshop last week to explore potential

  • Tottenham Hotspur to wear ISF Cambodia logo on jerseys in match against Sheffield United

    Last year, the Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) – an NGO providing education to underprivileged children in Cambodia – made global headlines with its “socially distanced” football initiative. This year, a world-class football club – Tottenham Hotspur FC – will wear special edition jerseys to show their support for ISF