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Speech by SEN at Destruction of Confiscated Ivory Launching Ceremony (English only)

     Following is the speech by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, at the Destruction of Confiscated Ivory Launching Ceremony held at the Chemical Waste Treatment Centre in Tsing Yi today (May 15):

Mr Scanlon (Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Mr John Scanlon), Dr Meng (Executive Director General of the Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora Import and Export Management Office of China, Dr Meng Xianlin), Dr Shin (Chairman of the Endangered Species Advisory Committee, Dr Paul Shin), ladies and gentlemen, and media friends,

     On behalf of the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), I am very honoured to be here today to welcome guests from around the world, especially our distinguished CITES Secretary-General Mr Scanlon and Dr Meng, Executive Director General of the Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora Import and Export Management Office of China, to witness Hong Kong's launching ceremony of the destruction of confiscated ivory.

     The ceremony we are holding today is very significant and meaningful. With the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora as the anchor, in the past few decades, parties to CITES have collaborated closely to combat illegal trade in elephant ivory. Hong Kong has joined the combat force under CITES since 1976. Trade in ivory, amongst 35 000 wildlife species which are being subject to exploitation and protected through listing on the CITES appendices, is controlled in accordance with the Convention through our local legislation - the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance.

     Under the Ordinance, we have banned the commercial import and export of all highly endangered species, and strictly regulate trade in less endangered species through licensing control. It is our duty to ensure that the international trade in these species is properly regulated and that any illegal trade is effectively dealt with. To reflect the seriousness Hong Kong attached to illegal trade of endangered species, our law carries a high penalty of conviction prescribed to imprisonment of up to two years and a fine up to HK$5 million as well as automatic forfeiture of the contraband.

     We have the determination and commitment to combat illegal trade in ivory and are glad to have the support from the whole Government. The enforcement of the legislation is under the auspices of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, which is the CITES Management Authority in Hong Kong. In view of the complexity of the illegal wildlife trade, we have benefited from the close collaboration with the Customs and Excise Department and the Police. Furthermore, the Endangered Species Protection Liaison Group has been formed since 1993 to co-ordinate enforcement of the Convention and liaison with overseas enforcement agencies and local non-government organisations. The pooling of resources and multi-disciplinary expertise through the liaison group has undoubtedly helped the enforcement of the Convention in Hong Kong. With these concerted efforts, only in the past three years some 200 cases related to ivory were intercepted by the Hong Kong SAR Government, with a total of some 17 tonnes of raw ivory seized.

     Over the years, a significant quantity of ivory has been confiscated from our enforcement actions. We are mindful of opportunities to use them for uses permitted under CITES that are beneficial to conservation, say by donating ivory as well as other CITES specimens to schools, museums and overseas institutes for conservation, scientific, education and training purposes. However, the Hong Kong SAR Government also sees the need to send a very clear message - both locally and internationally, that we are determined on curbing illegal poaching of elephants and ending the illegal trade in elephant ivory. So today, with the support of the Endangered Species Advisory Committee and under your witness, we shall commence to dispose of the confiscated ivory in the government stockpile by incineration. I also announce that apart from retaining a very small amount of ivory for potential uses permitted under the CITES, all the forfeited ivory stockpile, about 28 tonnes, will be disposed of by incineration in phases. In future, forfeited ivory would be similarly disposed of on a regular basis.

     Hong Kong strongly supports the work of CITES on protection of endangered species. We look forward to continue working closely with other CITES parties under the leadership of the CITES Secretary-General to fight against illegal trade in endangered species, in particular on illegal poaching of elephants and smuggling of their ivory, where there is evidence showing that more and more wildlife crimes are operating through well-organised criminal networks as well as deployment of advanced technologies.

     It is my honour this afternoon to have you all here. Your participation indicated your dedication and full support to the conservation of elephants. It is my sincere wish that our message on the importance of curbing illegal poaching of elephants and ending the illegal trade of ivory does not end here, but rather, with the help of those attending this event today, to spread all the way to business communities, consulates, schools, universities and many other stakeholder groups. The Government and the whole community must join hands to save our precious elephants.

     Thank you.

Ends/Thursday, May 15, 2014
Issued at HKT 17:35


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