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Hong Kong Lawmaker Pushes for Ivory Ban

Photo: Hong Kong legislative councillor Dr. Elizabeth Quat, © Alex Hofford/WildAid

Movement is afoot to crack down on one of the world’s largest illegal ivory markets that’s fueling the rampant slaughter of African elephants.  

On Tuesday, Hong Kong legislative councillor Dr. Elizabeth Quat, a leading proponent for an ivory sales ban in China, formally announced her plan to seek a Hong Kong government ban on its domestic ivory trade. Hong Kong is a key market for illegal ivory, with an estimated 15% of the world's total ivory seizures made in the city in 2013.

“Hong Kong would be the first consumer nation to ban ivory sales,” Legislative Councillor Quat said. “We’d be taking a strong stand with our brothers and sisters in Africa and setting an example for the rest of the world.” 

Quat also announced that she has been lobbying Hong Kong deputies to China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) to suggest a resolution banning the domestic ivory trade in mainland China, the world’s largest ivory market. Quat told reporters that she had already secured the key support of Maria Tam Wai-chu, the convener of the 36-strong bloc of Hong Kong deputies to the NPC, for the suggested resolution to the NPC's Standing Committee.

This follows a similar policy petition last year by former NBA superstar Yao Ming, a deputy to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and an active WildAid ambassador who has advocated worldwide for elephants, rhinos and sharks.

During the press event held at Hong Kong’s Legislative Council Building, Quat described her fact-finding trip to Kenya last fall, where she witnessed two sickening elephant poaching sites: Ol Donyiro and Sera, both located in central Kenya. She also met with rangers, conservationists and local people from communities affected by the poaching crisis.

Photo: Dr. Quat visits Kenya's David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, September 2014 

Quat linked the poaching crisis in Africa to the current situation in Hong Kong, where the government’s ivory licensing system is rife with issues and the laundering of ivory into the so-called "legal" market is a very real concern. The government issues licenses to Hong Kong vendors allowing them to sell ivory obtained prior to 1989 — a loophole that has provided cover for the sale of items made from recently poached elephants.

"A ban is an important message that shows the Chinese government is very keen on protecting animals and the Sino-African relationship,” Quat said.

Quat’s eight-point action plan urges the Hong Kong government to:

1. Tighten up the licensing and control of the Hong Kong ivory trade.

2. Step up public education and awareness raising on the impacts of the ivory trade.

3. Increase intelligence-led enforcement to reduce ivory smuggling.

4. Release a full list of ivory traders to the public for better transparency and monitoring by the public, NGO community and the media.

5. Ban the sale of whole and cut raw elephant ivory tusks.

6. Develop a mandatory registration and certification system for antique ivory. 

7. Increase the maximum penalties for ivory trafficking under the existing laws.

8. Conduct feasibility study on the ban of Hong Kong's ivory trade.

Quat hopes her recent trip to Kenya will raise awareness and help build momentum for further action in Hong Kong. “Coming to Africa and witnessing the realities of elephant poaching first hand has helped me understand the true implications of buying ivory,” she said. “I hope I can share this awareness with the people of Hong Kong and help end the killing. Thus, I will work with WildAid and launch the ‘Love Elephants’ campaign in Hong Kong."

WildAid supports Elizabeth Quat and wishes her the best of luck in her campaign. — Alex Hofford, wildlife campaigner, WildAid Hong Kong; @alexhofford 

Additional coverage: “Lawmaker Elizabeth Quat Pushes for Complete Ivory Ban on Mainland,” South China Morning Post