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Hong Kong LegCo-Ivory Vote Recap

WildAid Hong Kong

By Alex Hofford
Thursday, December 10, 2015

Hong Kong ivory vote, continued:


Outside LegCo, on Wednesday, December 2, the day before the vote, a large protest against the ivory trade took place within earshot of legislators as they arrived in the LegCo Complex one by one. WildAid is particularly grateful to Li Po Chun United World College who sent at our request a large and very loud contingent of teenage students to LegCo to make their voices heard. Given that it is extremely hard to muster a crowd on a weekday morning, we are very grateful to teacher Linda Olsen for ensuring the high turn out rate.

The teenagers were joined by representatives from other NGO groups in Hong Kong including; WWF-Hong Kong, Greenpeace, Hong Kong Society for the Protection of Animals (SPCA), the Jane Goodall Institute Hong Kong and Together all joined in solidarity with the instigator of the wildlife crime and ban ivory trade motion, WildAid supporter and pro-establishment lawmaker Hon. Elizabeth Quat, who is from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) political party. At the event, the Hon. Elizabeth Quat was joined by her political opponent, pan-Democratic lawmaker Hon. Lee Cheuk-yan from Labour Party and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions in saying “Say No To Ivory!”

After the morning protest, as the day wore on it became clear that due to other LegCo meetings running overtime, the debate would only commence the next day at 9am. To a practically empty chamber, LegCo President Tsang Yok-sing gave the floor to the Hon. Elizabeth Quat to make her opening speech to kick off the debate. What ensued can only be described as a real eye opener. Lawmaker after lawmaker lined up to strike blows against the Hong Kong ivory trade. Marking a real sea change in attitudes towards wildlife, Hong Kong's lawmakers boldly called out the Hong Kong government for failing public aspirations and their lame response to wildlife crime.

In a further positive move, the debate moved beyond just elephants, as the Hon. Claudia Mo moved an amendment on the cruel practice of bear bile farming and how bear bile is still available for sale in Hong Kong pharmacies. And then the floodgates opened, and it was like watching Noah's Ark sailing through LegCo. Species that got a mention included, but were not limited to; whales, tigers, pangolins, sharks, dolphins, porpoises and timber. Many lawmakers made reference to the hard copies of our reports that had been sent to their offices on the preceding Monday.

In a monster mail out, the following reports had been fed into the Legislative Council internal mail system; WildAid report 'The Illusion of Control' (English), WildAid report 'The Illusion of Control' (Chinese), WildAid report 'Ivory Demand in Hong Kong' (English), WildAid report 'Ivory Demand in Hong Kong' (Chinese), Hong Kong University Ivory Consumption Trends Survey (Bilingual English & Chinese), Save The Elephants Martin & Vigne report 'Hong Kong's Ivory' (English) and Save The Elephants Martin & Vigne report 'Hong Kong's Ivory' (Chinese).

At the end of the debate, Hong Kong's Acting Secretary for the Environment, Ms Christine Loh, made a closing speech, which contained a few bright spots, but acknowledged that much work is still to be done.

After the votes were counted it was heartening to see that two lawmakers that had previously lobbied the Hong Kong government on behalf of the ivory traders not to destroy the city's confiscated ivory stockpile and not to ban the ivory trade, actually voted YES to pass the motion. In a move to clear their conscience it was apparent that the Hon. Jeffrey Lam and the Hon. Andrew Leung voted to support the Hon. Elzabeth Quat's motion in a move to absolve themselves. WildAid thanks them for that, is it closes off the last legislative avenue for resistance from the Hong Kong ivory traders.

According to a recent report by the Kenya-based NGO Save the Elephants, Hong Kong has the world’s largest retail market for ivory, and it has been proven beyond doubt that the city's legal trade provides a convenient cover for a massive underground illegal trade and smuggling racket. WildAid is urging the Hong Kong government to not delay any further as according to the latest science available, 35,000 African elephants are being illegally-killed each year for meaningless trinkets and jewelry, which equates to about 96 per day – or one elephant every fifteen minutes. Without strong legislative action to halt the trade immediately, this majestic species will go extinct within our lifetime. WildAid thanks the Hon. Elizabeth Quat for moving the original motion on “Strengthening the combat against the crime of wildlife smuggling”.

The entire three hours and forty five minute long historic debate can be viewed here. Highlights include:

1. The Hon. Elizabeth Quat's opening speech on stepping up the fight against wildlife crime and banning ivory trade in Hong Kong. (0:00:45)

2. The Hon. Kenneth Leung holds up a very graphic photo of a poached elephant in LegCo.(0:33:05)

3. The Hon. Lee Cheuk-yan wears paper elephant tusks on his face and reads his speech in the first person as if it was a letter written to him from an elephant. (1:24:14)

4. The Hon. Charles Mok makes a speech in English holding a copy of  Save The Elephants recent report on the Hong Kong ivory trade as well as the a poster of the cover of  the 21 November 2015 edition of The Economist in which WildAid CEO Peter Knights talks about ivory trade, ('It looks better on an elephant'). (1:45:34)

5. Christine Loh's concluding speech at the end where she sets out the Hong Kong government's current position. (2:13:24) IMPORTANT

6. The final vote. (3:40:55)

More resources:

Vote count:

Original motion:

Amended motion passed:

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