Posts Tagged ‘mainland China’

Hong Kong firms join forces to make deals under Silk Road plan

June 19, 2017

Companies will draw on their experience to initially establish infrastructure projects and industrial parks in Thailand and Vietnam

By Josh Ye
South China Morning Post

Monday, June 19, 2017, 8:48pm

Hong Kong companies will form a consortium to build infrastructure projects and industrial parks in Thailand and Vietnam under mainland China’s Silk Road project, the Trade Development Council says.

Council president Vincent Lo Hong-sui said over 40 business leaders from Hong Kong and Shanghai formed a delegation while visiting the two countries last month and met both prime ministers.

He added that this was one of many steps in further involving Hong Kong companies with the “One Belt, One Road” initiative.

Lo said the statutory body was now forming “a consortium of local companies” to help them enter these developing markets as a collective force.

“We are looking to build infrastructure projects and industrial parks in countries under the belt and road initiative.”

The initiative was launched by Beijing in 2013 to promote the building of railways, roads, power plants and other infrastructure projects in 60 countries from Asia to Europe on its old Silk Road to promote trade and economic growth.

The council has identified eight countries out of the 65 under the scheme as the initial destinations for Hong Kong investment – Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Nicholas Kwan, research director at the council, said Hong Kong investors were seasoned in managing supply chain systems across countries.

 Vincent Lo says numerous multibillion-dollar deals will be closed this year. Photo: Sam Tsang

Lo said the development level of many of the belt and road countries reminded him of mainland China three decades ago.

“Hong Kong investors have garnered a lot of practical experience in developing mainland China,” he said. “This experience is unique and will definitely benefit other countries.”

He said the council aimed to close several deals this year and estimated some projects were worth more than US$10 billion.

Lo added that chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor had told him the next administration would fully support the council in furthering deals with countries linked to the trade initiative.

The council also announced that it would host its second belt and road summit in September, which looked to introduce more concrete plans for local firms to enter relevant countries.

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/economy/article/2099050/hong-kong-firms-join-forces-make-deals-under-silk-road-plan

Taiwan lawmakers launch support group for Hong Kong democracy

June 12, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Lawmakers in Taiwan launched a new group to help promote democracy in Hong Kong on Monday, a move likely to rile Beijing ahead of the 20th anniversary of the handover of the city from Britain back to China.

TAIPEI (AFP) – Lawmakers in Taiwan launched a new group to help promote democracy in Hong Kong on Monday, a move likely to rile Beijing ahead of the 20th anniversary of the handover of the city from Britain back to China.Taiwan and Hong Kong are thorns in Beijing’s side — both saw huge anti-China protests in 2014, known respectively as the Sunflower Movement and Umbrella Movement.

Ties with self-ruling Taiwan have worsened under China-sceptic President Tsai Ing-wen, who took office last year.

Beijing still sees Taiwan as part of its territory to be reunified and wants Tsai to acknowledge that the island is part of “one China”, which she has refused to do.

In semi-autonomous Hong Kong, frustration at a lack of political reform and fears that freedoms are under threat have led to the emergence of groups calling for self-determination or even independence from China, infuriating Beijing.

The new “Taiwan Congressional Hong Kong Caucus” comprises 18 lawmakers who say they want to help promote democracy in Hong Kong, including Huang Kuo-chang — one of the leaders of the Sunflower Movement and now a lawmaker with the New Power Party, which he heads.

Four other NPP legislators are part of the caucus, with the other members coming from Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

“We have seen that the Beijing government continues to suppress Hong Kong people’s pursuit of true democracy,” Huang told reporters Monday.

The caucus would offer “assistance” by helping campaigners and lawmakers in both places to exchange views and discuss public policies, he added.

Huang and other top activists from the Sunflower Movement have been barred from entering Hong Kong since 2014.

High-profile Hong Kong pro-democracy activists and lawmakers, including Joshua Wong and Nathan Law, also attended the launch.

Law described Taiwan as an “ally”.

“We need to be united and share our experiences more as we are faced with suppression,” Wong added.

The 20-year-old emphasised that he did not advocate independence for Hong Kong — his and Law’s party Demosisto is calling for self-determination.

But political analyst Willy Lam said Beijing would not differentiate between independence activists and campaigners like Law and Wong.

Lam predicted Chinese authorities would “ferociously attack” the new group as evidence of collusion between pro-independence forces.

Taiwan has never formally declared independence from China and Beijing has said it would react with force if it ever did.

Tsai’s DPP is traditionally pro-independence, fuelling Beijing’s suspicion of her government.

Hong Kong is deeply divided into those calling for more democracy and pro-China voices as it approaches the July 1 handover anniversary.

Law was attacked by pro-Beijing demonstrators at Hong Kong airport in January on his return from a trip to Taiwan.

Wong and Law were both greeted by pro-China protesters in Taipei on that visit, during which they participated in an exchange of views between the democratic movements of Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Hong Kong Marks 28 Years Since Bloody Tiananmen Crackdown

June 4, 2017

HONG KONG — Thousands of Hong Kongers are expected at a candlelight vigil for victims of the Chinese government’s brutal military crackdown nearly three decades ago on protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

Sunday night’s gathering in downtown Victoria Park is an annual affair that regularly draws tens of thousands. It’s the only large-scale commemoration on Chinese territory of the bloodshed 28 years ago.

Commemoration of the Tiananmen events remains taboo in mainland China. But it’s openly discussed in Hong Kong, a special Chinese region with much autonomy.

Hundreds if not thousands of unarmed protesters and onlookers were killed late on June 3 and the early hours of June 4, 1989, after China’s communist leaders ordered the military to retake Tiananmen Square from the student-led demonstrators.

China’s Cybersecurity Law takes internet censorship to a new high.

May 23, 2017

China’s new Cybersecurity Law takes effect on June 1. Together with regulations issued over the past month by the Cyber Administration of China (CAC) — including on news reporting and commentary — the new legal landscape threatens to tighten what is already one of the world’s most restrictive online environments. What happens next will depend on a combination of Chinese government actions, citizen pushback, and international readiness.

Past experience suggests that the government’s enforcement of the regulations will be uneven and selective but a worst-case scenario would include three features.

First, social media accounts would be closed on a large scale across multiple platforms. This has already been taking place in a more piecemeal fashion. Since 2013, online opinion leaders with millions of microblog followers on Sina Weibo have had their accounts shuttered. In March 2014, dozens of public accounts on WeChat that shared information on current affairs were closed or suspended. More recently, some journalists and academics have reported having their personal WeChat accounts shuttered. Under the new rules, millions of social media accounts sharing information on even apolitical news topics could be subject to such censorship.

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.Second, there would be an increase in arrests of ordinary users, including based on private information obtained by Chinese security forces from internet companies. The foreign business community and internet freedom advocates have expressed concern regarding the Cybersecurity Law’s requirement that user data be stored on servers inside China, which would make users more vulnerable to having their private communications seized or used for prosecutions.

The Chinese authorities have made clear that they are willing to imprison ordinary citizens based on content shared or viewed via social media. A February 2017 Freedom House study on religious freedom found that Falun Gong practitioners had been jailed for posting messages about the spiritual group or human rights abuses to WeChat or QQ, and that young Uyghurs had been imprisoned for viewing online videos about Islam. Last month, Wang Jiangfeng of Shandong Province was sentenced to two years in prison for referring to “Steamed Bun Xi” — a banned nickname for President Xi Jinping — in a group message on WeChat.

Third, full enforcement would mean greater government control over private media companies and news portals. The CAC rules promulgated on May 2 significantly restrict the space for investment and editorial input by foreigners, requiring editors in chief, for example, to be Chinese passport holders. They also mention “special management shares.” According to former journalist Feng Kecheng, now a media studies doctoral candidate in the United States, private web companies that provide news may have to issue such special shares to the government and possibly grant it a seat on their boards.

These provisions reflect Chinese leaders’ attempts to bring the online news industry into closer alignment with the domestic print and broadcast sectors, in which all outlets are owned by the state or party. Yet some Chinese media observers remain cautiously optimistic, since it is doubtful that the CAC will close millions of WeChat, Weibo, and QQ accounts or imprison tens of thousands of people for sharing “unlicensed” news.

Meanwhile, online businesses and news websites, which must still compete for users, are likely to continue dragging their feet on compliance and might engage in outright defiance. In August 2015, following deadly chemical explosions in Tianjin, several news portals produced original reporting about the cause of the blasts, although they were technically barred from doing so even under previous regulations.

Netizens, technologists, and their counterparts outside China will continue to develop ways to disseminate uncensored information on important topics and protect user privacy. Last month, Radio Free Asia reported that as local governments in Hebei and Guangdong provinces stepped up monitoring of public WiFi hotspots, a free mobile application called WiFi Master Key — which encrypts user activity — was downloaded over 900 million times. Similarly, after Apple was pressured to remove the New York Times mobile app from its stores in China, downloads for a less easily blocked Android version continued unobstructed.

China’s internet is still a contested space. Indeed, regime insecurity about this contestation is precisely what is driving the latest effort to consolidate control. “Online, the government is fighting like a cornered beast,” says journalist Zhu Xinxin. “They can’t exercise total control over online public opinion.”

Xi is facing simultaneous political and economic pressures, raising the stakes of the struggle, but it is precisely during times of crisis that Chinese netizens have shown a greater tendency to seek out uncensored information. This occurred in 2012, amid a national scandal centered on Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai; in 2014, when Instagram was blocked at the height of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution; and in 2015, following the Tianjin explosions.

All those with an interest in Chinese people’s access to information — whether they are foreign governments, technology companies, civil society groups, or ordinary citizens — should be prepared with contingency plans and funding to support circumvention tools and other means of getting uncensored news into and out of China at critical moments.

With a major Party Congress approaching in the fall, environmental problems multiplying, and North Korea advancing its nuclear program, the next moment of crisis in China might be just around the corner.

Sarah Cook is a senior research analyst for East Asia at Freedom House. She directs its monthly China Media Bulletin and is author of its recent report The Battle for China’s Spirit: Religious Revival, Repression, and Resistance under Xi Jinping.

http://thediplomat.com/2017/05/chinas-next-internet-crackdown/

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Energy Shares Lead Asian Stock Losses as Oil Falls Under $45 — oil prices fell to their lowest levels in nearly six months — oversupply concerns

May 5, 2017

HONG KONG — Energy shares led declines on Asian stock markets Friday after oil prices fell to their lowest levels in nearly six months on oversupply concerns.

KEEPING SCORE: Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Seng index lost 1.2 percent to 24,396.85 while the Shanghai Composite index in mainland China shed 0.7 percent to 3,104.02. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.7 percent to 5,835.20. Taiwan’s benchmark fell and Southeast Asian indexes were mixed. Markets in Japan and South Korea were closed for holidays.

CRUDE CONCERNS: U.S. benchmark crude futures fell under the key $45 level after tumbling nearly 5 percent during U.S. trading. Oil is being hammered by uncertainty over whether OPEC will extend an agreement to cut production and worries that renewing the deal wouldn’t be enough to counter a growing glut. Member nations of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries are due to discuss the deal later this month. Crude fell $1.36, or 3 percent, to $44.16 a barrel after falling as low as $43.76 in Asian trading, wiping out all gains since the production cut agreement in November. The contract lost $2.30, or 4.8 percent, to settle at $45.52 a barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, the standard for international oils, fell $2.75 to $47.05 a barrel in London.

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QUOTEWORTHY: “The collapse in oil prices saw (benchmark West Texas Intermediate) plunge as the market continues to probe for a bottom amid oversupply concerns,” said Stephen Innes, senior trader at OANDA. He said traders saw $45 as an important level because the Saudi oil minister said earlier this week that prices would be kept in the $45-55 range. “If $45 was OPEC line in the sand, well it’s been breached so let us see how strong OPEC resolve is,” he said.

ENERGY SHARES: Oil company stocks led declines. PetroChina, China’s biggest oil producer, lost 3.2 percent and Sinopec, the country’s largest refiner, fell 2.8 percent. Australia’s Woodside Petroleum slid 3 percent.

JOB REPORT: Investors’ attention now turns to U.S. jobs data due after Asian markets close, when the Labor Department releases nonfarm payrolls for April. Economists forecast that job-creating bounced back last month after a disappointing March, in the latest sign of U.S. economic strength supporting the Fed’s plans for more interest rate increases this year.

WALL STREET: Major U.S. benchmarks were little changed. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 0.1 percent to close at 2,389.52. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 6.43 points to 20,951.47. The Nasdaq composite added 2.79 points to 6,075.34.

CURRENCIES: The dollar weakened to 112.17 yen from 112.46 yen. The euro edged up to $1.09876 from $1.0984.

China’s party officials warned not to cross ‘red lines’ while using WeChat — China’s Communist Party closely watches social media (of everyone)

April 18, 2017

Disciplinary watchdog identifies eight prohibited behaviours

By Mimi Lau
South China Morning Post

Tuesday, April 18, 2017, 7:07pm

Hong Kong’s restive youth prepare for long struggle with Beijing

April 6, 2017

Reuters

Chinese University Student Union External Vice President Cheryl Chu (L), 19, and External Secretary Thomas Lee, 24, pose inside the university campus in Hong Kong, China March 30, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip
By James Pomfret and Venus Wu | HONG KONG

With China’s preferred candidate selected as Hong Kong’s next chief executive, another blow to the morale of the city’s democracy activists, their young leaders are taking a page from Beijing’s playbook and preparing for a long battle.

At the leafy campus of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, there is little sign of the fervor that drove thousands of students to stage the Umbrella Movement street protests that brought parts of the city to a standstill for months in 2014.

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A Goddess of Democracy statue in Hong Kong at the 21st anniversary of the Tiananmen protests of 1989

“We still all care about Hong Kong’s social issues, democracy, Beijing’s interference,” said Ceci Chow, a third-year nursing student, as she waited on campus beside a bronze statue of the ‘goddess of democracy’. But she concedes there might not be the same “driving force” for action.

Student union leaders like Cheryl Chu and Thomas Lee agree that the commitment is still there, but they doubt mass protests are the way to go, for now.

The Umbrella Movement ultimately failed to persuade Beijing to grant full democracy in elections for Chief Executive, so Carrie Lam will assume the post in July thanks to the backing last month of an electoral college packed with mostly Beijing loyalists.

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Disqualified lawmakers Yau Wai-ching, 25, (L) and Baggio Leung, 30, pose outside government headquarters in Hong Kong, China March 28, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

In the run-up to Lam’s victory, student leaders eschewed public protests and opted instead to use social media, leaflets and street booths to present their case that the election was undemocratic.

“We need to look further in future, and look at how to slowly make the people close to us change a little. Only then will we feel that we can achieve something tangible in future,” said Lee.

Harassment of pro-democracy groups

Many activist leaders have been weighed down by legal battles. One day after Lam’s selection, nine were charged with public nuisance offences for their part in the protests, and more arrests could follow.

Victories in last September’s elections to the city’s legislature, when one in five voters backed younger candidates including Umbrella Movement leaders and self-determination advocates, rapidly turned sour when two newly elected legislators were disqualified. Beijing and a local court ruled Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching had not taken their oaths properly after inserting a dig at China.

The government has since sought to disqualify four more pro-democracy lawmakers for invalid oaths, while two others charged for inciting the Umbrella protests might be removed if they are jailed for over a month.

“NEVER REST”

For some young people like Derek Lam, 23, a theology student who has been arrested five times in two years for various protests, there is a financial cost to their activism.

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Pro-democracy student activist Derek Lam, 23, poses outside a chapel in Hong Kong, China March 30, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Lam has not been convicted, but says his high-profile arrests mean he now struggles to find work and might not be able to graduate if he fails to pay his half-year school fee of HK$24,000 (US$3,090).

But the setbacks have not deterred him.

“The Chinese Communist Party will never rest, so we can’t rest as well … Luckily, we have 30 years, and after 30 years our opponents will not be the people who are in power now, but people our age. So a lot depends on how we influence our peers now.”

This July, on the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China from British rule, Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to visit the city. But while many activists are appalled by what they see as a gradual ratcheting up of Chinese control during the 50-year period of transitional autonomy agreed with Britain, they are not expecting a protest on the scale of 2014.

“The fight for democracy doesn’t just take place on the streets,” said Joshua Wong, the public face of the Umbrella Movement, who was just 17 when the protests began. “And the fight for Hong Kong’s autonomy doesn’t take place in years. We are talking about a battle of 20, 30 years.”

The challenge for Beijing is that many of Hong Kong’s young people, rather than growing to accept China’s growing role in the city’s affairs, have become further estranged from the mainland and are increasingly warming to a localism movement that puts the city’s autonomy, interests and culture first.

“The youths in Hong Kong are now more eager to step up and say we’re Hong Kongers, we love Hong Kong and distinguish ourselves from the Chinese. There is a very strong Hong Kong identity, and this will not waver,” said Wong Ching-tak, 20, the president of the University of Hong Kong’s Student Union.

Disqualified legislators Leung and Yau hope that identity will mobilize supporters when the next battleground issue crops up.

“There will be a last war … There will be a very large-scale social movement that emerges,” Leung said. “And it will determine whether there’s still a road ahead for Hong Kong as we know it, or not.”

(Reporting by James Pomfret and Venus Wu; Additional reporting by Katy Wong; Editing by Will Waterman)

Related:

 (Anyone who criticizes the Chinese government on WeChat is likely to be given special attention)

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 (Has links to many related articles)

Bookseller Lam Wing-kee (C) takes part in a protest march with pro-democracy lawmakers and supporters in Hong Kong, China June 18, 2016.
REUTERS/BOBBY YIP
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 (Contains many  links to articles on the Chinese human rights lawyers)

Subversive Chinese have their own language for criticism of the Communist Party government — Especially when they deride authorities for holding the common people in low esteem

March 30, 2017

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The  comes from the Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon, a glossary of terms created by Chinese and encountered in online political discussions. These are the words of China’s online “resistance discourse,” used to mock and subvert the official language around censorship and political correctness.

lǘ mín 驴民

An insulting term reclaimed by netizens to deride authorities for holding the common people in low esteem. Very similar to “fart people” (pì mín 屁民), with the additional implication that the donkey-like masses are stubborn, stupid, and tend to overestimate their capabilities.

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This term originated after the 2016-2017 “dishonored mother murder case” (辱母杀人案件). In April 2016, Yu Huan (于欢), a 23-year-old resident of Liaocheng, , was arrested for attacking a group of loan sharks with a knife, killing one.

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Meme showing a “donkey person” successfully toppling a “bus” (Source: Unknown user/Weibo)

The standoff came after Yu’s mother Su Yinxia (苏银霞) failed to keep up with usurious interest payments on a loan of over 1 million yuan, having already paid off the principle. The loan sharks reportedly restrained and abused the two in the reception lobby of Su’s workplace, with the group’s leader Du Zhihao (杜志浩) exposing his genitals and suggesting the mother resort to prostitution if unable to pay. A passerby reportedly witnessed the detention through the window and notified public security officials, who came to the scene but quickly departed. After they left, Yu grabbed a kitchen knife and injured four of the captors, including Du Zhihao. Du drove himself to the hospital, but died before receiving treatment.An insulting term reclaimed by netizens to deride authorities for holding the common people in low esteem. Very similar to “fart people” (pì mín 屁民), with the additional implication that the donkey-like masses are stubborn, stupid, and tend to overestimate their capabilities.

On February 17, 2017, the Liaocheng Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Yu Huan to life imprisonment for “intentional injury.” On March 24, the influential Southern Weekly newspaper attracted public attention to the case with an article titled “Stabbing to Death The Mother Disgracers.” The article examined Yu’s actions in context of self-defense and filial piety, and also called into question police negligence. With public opinion tilted firmly in favor of the imprisoned Yu, China’s top state prosecutor on March 26 decided to review Yu’s controversial life sentence.

Amid a heated online debate about the case, the official Weibo of the Public Security Bureau, in Shandong’s capital capital city 100 km east of Liaocheng, posted the parable of the donkey versus the bus:

Of the world’s many wonders, one is the donkey resenting the bus
Donkey: I will not accept you, let’s fight!
Bus: I will fight you a thousand times, and each time you’ll end up an injured donkey!

世界多奇葩,毛驴怼大巴
毛驴:不服来战!
大巴:容你战我千百回,受伤的驴总是你啊! [Chinese]

(Source: Weibo/@济南公安)

The post led to wide condemnation, with many interpreting it as a castigation of the successful lobbying of public opinion that appeared to bring about a legal review of Yu’s case. In this interpretation, the “donkey” represents the common people, and the “bus” the substantially more powerful security state and police. The Jinan Public Security Bureau PSB deleted the weibo and issued a disclaimer: “This Weibo does not represent any official point of view, and was the result of staff acting without instructions. On-duty staff maintaining the account are not police officers.”

Some sample responses included the newly coined “donkey people” in context of other antagonistic official remarks that have been reclaimed by the masses:

JiushiFenlan (@就是芬兰): Aha, so you originally thought of us as the diao people, but now realize we are the donkey people.

原来以为自己是刁民,现在才明白原来是驴民啊。

BingxueFeiHan (@冰雪非寒): Originally I mistook us all for netizens, and after realized we’re really fart people. Now I discover that actually we’re not , we’re donkey people. Heartfelt thanks to the Jinan Public Security Bureau for telling us the truth.

原来我以为我们都是网民,后来知道了我们是屁民。再后发现自己连屁民也错了,我们是驴民。感谢济南公安给人民说了句实话。[Chinese]

Netizens also created graphic memes explicitly showing who the “donkey” represents in the above parable, depicting masses of donkeys banding in solidarity around a bus, or even toppling one over. ​

See also fart people.

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Can’t get enough of subversive Chinese netspeak? Check out our latest ebook, “Decoding the Chinese Internet: A Glossary of Political Slang.” Includes dozens of new terms and classic catchphrases, presented in a new, image-rich format. Available for pay-what-you-want (including nothing). All proceeds support CDT.

Hong Kong convicts two for ivory chopsticks after radiocarbon dating — Chinese demand for elephant ivory drops, report says

March 29, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | A Hong Kong court has convicted two men for illegal possession of ivory chopsticks after radiocarbon dating proved it was produced after 1990 and therefore unlawful
HONG KONG (AFP) – A Hong Kong court has convicted two men for illegal possession of ivory chopsticks after radiocarbon dating proved it was produced after 1990 and therefore unlawful, local media reported.

Hong Kong, a key hub for the ivory trade and manufacturing, announced plans last year to phase out sales completely by 2021.

Government officials bought the pair of ivory chopsticks from a crafts shop during an operation last August in the city’s Sheung Wan district, which is dotted with curio and antique vendors.

Radiocarbon dating showed the ivory was obtained after 1990, according to an earlier government press release.

The pair were Tuesday handed fines of US$770 and US$1,000 respectively.

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“It’s the first time the Hong Kong government has ever used radiocarbon analysis to determine the age of ivory — that’s a total game changer in the market,” WildAid wildlife campaigner Alex Hofford told AFP.

While environmental groups welcomed the use of forensic evidence, they condemned the light penalty, compared with the maximum punishment of a US$640,000 fine and two years in jail.

Domestic trade in ivory imported legally into Hong Kong before 1990 is legal with a government licence.

“Today’s sentencing is a strong reminder that penalties in Hong Kong need to increase to reflect better the gravity of wildlife crime and be an effective deterrent to prevent illegal ivory traders from carrying out similar acts in future,” said Yannick Kuehl of wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC in a statement.

The Chinese government announced plans late last year to ban all ivory trade and processing by the end of 2017 in a move hailed by conservationists.

Critics have argued Hong Kong’s five-year timetable to outlaw sales was too slow and would attract ivory laundering to the city as mainland China moves forward with the ban.

Conservationists estimate that more than 20,000 elephants were killed for their ivory in 2015, with similar tolls in previous years.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which took effect in 1975, banned the ivory trade in 1989.

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Chinese demand for elephant ivory drops, new report says

By TOM ODULA, ASSOCIATED PRESS

The price of ivory in China has dropped sharply as the country plans to end the legal trade in ivory later this year, a leading elephant conservation group said in a new report Wednesday.

Chinese demand for tusks has been driving African elephants toward extinction, experts say. The Chinese government in recent years has taken steps to stop the trade in ivory, which is used for ornamentation and souvenirs. China’s ivory factories are to be shut down by Friday, followed by the closing of retail outlets by the end of this year.

The new report surveys the price of ivory in markets across China between 2014 and early this year. It found the price dropped from $2,100 per kilogram in early 2014 to $730 in February.

Conservationists say tens of thousands of elephants have been killed in Africa in recent years as demand for ivory in Asia, particularly China, increased. Past estimates of Africa’s elephant population have ranged from 420,000 to 650,000. Some conservationists estimate that up to 20,000 elephants are killed by poachers every year to meet demand.

“This is a critical period for elephants,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, president and founder of Save the Elephants, which carried out the research.

“With the end of the legal ivory trade in China, the survival chances for elephants have distinctly improved. We must give credit to China for having done the right thing by closing the ivory trade. There is still a long way to go to end the excessive killing of elephants for ivory, but there is now greater hope for the species.”

Other factors behind the drop in the price of ivory include an economic slowdown in China resulting in fewer people being able to afford luxury goods, and a crackdown on corruption that has dissuaded business people from buying expensive ivory items as “favors” for government officials, the new report says.

“Findings from 2015 and 2016 in China have shown that the legal ivory trade especially has been severely diminished,” said Lucy Vigne, a researcher with Save The Elephants. The 130 licensed outlets in China gradually have been reducing the quantity of ivory items on display for sale, and recently have been cutting prices to improve sales, the report says.

By 2015, some of China’s main licensed retail ivory outlets were closed at the time of the researchers’ visit due to slow sales. In other cases, vendors were replacing elephant ivory displays with mammoth ivory dug out of the Russian tundra.

China continues to be the largest consumer of mammoth ivory, whose price also has dropped from $1,900 per kilogram in 2014 to $730 this year, the report said.

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FILE – In this Saturday, April 30, 2016 file photo, an ivory statue, right, lies on top of pyres of ivory as they are set on fire in Nairobi National Park, Kenya. A leading elephant conservation group said Wednesday, March 29, 2017 that the price of ivory in China has dropped as the country moves toward a ban on the legal trade of ivory this year. Ben Curtis, File AP

Hong Kong’s Next Leader is Carrie Lam — “Hong Kong needs new thinking.” — “Fake” Chinese-style democracy won’t work

March 26, 2017