A Comparative Evaluation of Hong Kong's Legislative Powers to
Regulate Trade in Endangered Wild Animals
Project Title(Chinese) :
Principal Investigator(English) :
Ms Whitfort, Amanda Sarah
Principal Investigator(Chinese) :
Department of Professional Legal Education
The University of Hong Kong
Co - Investigator(s) :
Dr Fiona , Woodhouse
Humanities, Social Sciences
Subject Area :
Social and Behavioural Sciences
Exercise Year :
2016 / 17
Fund Approved :
Project Status :
Completion Date :
Abstract as per original application (English/Chinese):
As signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Hong Kong has long had an obligation to implement and enforce legislation which effectively prevents illegal trade in endangered wild animals into and through the Territory.
With the extension of mainland China’s membership of the United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity to Hong Kong, in 2011, the government is now further obligated to provide effective controls to protect international biodiversity by regulating the movement of endangered species through Hong Kong, whether the species is listed in CITES or not.
The majority of trade in endangered species in Hong Kong is unregulated. The only law targeting the protection of endangered species is the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance, Cap 586 which regulates the import, export and possession of CITES listed species; a small percentage of the wildlife trade.
Endangered animals not subject to CITES restrictions can be traded freely in the Territory. Such animals may be vulnerable in their country of origin and sourced illegally or unsustainably but are not protected under Cap 586. Due to this omission, Hong Kong acts as a gateway to China and other Asian countries where such animals are sought for food, medicine and sometimes exotic pets.
This project will study whether Hong Kong’s legislation intended to protect endangered species from illegal trade is effective. In particular, it will consider whether Cap 586 is effective to control the trade in CITES listed species and examine the legal loophole which currently allows Hong Kong to act as a major trade route for endangered and vulnerable species not prohibited for trade under CITES.
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department and the Customs and Excise
Department are charged with enforcement of the legislation to control trade in wildlife. The project will consider the powers provided to those enforcement agencies and evaluate whether they are fit for purpose, through interviews with various stakeholders involved with the trade.
The project will study the legislation in place in overseas jurisdictions that have been effective in controlling trade in endangered species and, where appropriate, make recommendations for similar legislative reform in Hong Kong.
The project will consider whether effective sanctions on the illegal trade in wild animals are being provided by Hong Kong’s courts. The project will review recent sentencing decisions taken by local judiciary and make comparisons with international sentencing practices for similar wildlife crimes.