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China's Hong Kong determined to phase out local ivory trade by 2021

Xinhua | Updated: 2016-12-21 19:43

HONG KONG - China's Hong Kong government announced on Wednesday a proposal of a three-step plan to prepare for a total ban of local ivory trade by 2021.

To phase out local trade in ivory, the Hong Kong government proposed the plan for the preparation of amendments to the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance in a single legislative exercise, which Hong Kong's Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said will be tabled to the Legislative Council next year.

"Hong Kong is determined to stem illegal ivory trade. Our goal is to completely eliminate local ivory trade by the end of 2021," Wong said, adding it is necessary for the government to take these measures in view of the latest trend of ivory smuggling and worldwide calls for closing down of ivory trade.

Step one of the plan is to immediately ban the import and re-export of all elephant hunting trophies and those remaining post-Convention ivory (ie, ivory acquired after the CITES provisions started to apply to elephants) items, the import, export and re-export of which are currently permissible under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), upon the commencement of the amendment legislation.

Step two is to ban the import and re-export of pre-Convention ivory and subject pre-Convention ivory in the local market to licensing control three months after the ban in step one.

Step three is to ban the possession for commercial purposes of all ivory which will take effect on Dec 31, 2021 after a grace period of about five years.

The measures to be implemented in steps two and three will not be applicable to antique ivory.

Michael Lau, director of Wetlands Conservation at World Wide Fund Hong Kong told the media that they welcomed the government's move to phase out local ivory trade.

He believed that by stepping up enforcement actions and banning on ivory sales, it will help to reduce the market and the demands.

To prepare for the total ban of local ivory trade in step three, all the Licences to possess to be issued, extended, renewed or varied on or after December 31, 2016 will expire on or before Dec 30, 2021.

The government will also increase the penalties under the ordinance by amending the ordinance in the same legislative exercise, which will include imposing uniform maximum penalties for both commercial and non-commercial summary offences.

Except under certain specific circumstances such as scientific studies, education, law enforcement and training, international trade in ivory has been virtually banned since 1990.

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