立法會工作 立法會工作 - 用心專業 為理發聲

立法會工作

 

Good morning ladies and gentlemen.  Thank you ADM Foundation for having me here this morning.
 
Some of you may be surprised to know that wildlife and forest crime is recognised by respected international agencies such as Interpol and UNODC as one of the top five most lucrative illegal trades in the world. Others are of course drugs, counterfeiting, arms and human trafficking. Like these serious crimes, illegal wildlife trade requires complex criminal structures and organized groups. Syndicates involved in drug trafficking for example, have also been known to have links to the illegal wildlife trade.
 
Multiple wildlife species are facing extinction because of the illegal trade. In 2018, the International Union for Conservation of Nature announced that at least 26,500 species are threatened globally. This is an alarming figure which is in part driven by the demand for exotic pets, fur and skins for fashion and traditional medicine. Some experts in the field believe we are facing a ‘biodiversity apocalypse’.
 
Hong Kong has been known as one of the illegal wildlife trafficking hubs in the world. Many international and organized criminal investigations into wildlife crimes do involve Hong Kong. Wildlife crime is an issue facing the global community, and Hong Kong plays a significant role.
 
As a transit point as well as a market, Hong Kong remains a crucial location in smuggling routes. The findings of research released yesterday, and highlighted later this morning provide compelling figures, capturing the sophisticated and organised nature of wildlife crime in Hong Kong. However, the findings of the report may be just the tip of the iceberg.
 
Bearing this in mind, the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department recorded 2,011 seizures of CITES-regulated species in Hong Kong between 2013 and 2017. This is the equivalent of an endangered wildlife product being seized every 21 hours. These seizures are frequently of high value and volume, reflecting the serious impact that the trade has on species populations and the entire ecosystems, not to mention on local communities.
 
The nature of these crimes clearly demonstrates that they are pre-meditated, carefully orchestrated operations, carried out by experienced syndicates. Around the world, syndicates trafficking in wildlife are the same people trafficking drugs, guns and humans, and they should be treated accordingly by the Government and justice system.
 
Fighting wildlife crime is a global responsibility, and numerous countries have made significant commitments to tackling it within their jurisdictions. In the last 18 months, the European Commission adopted its ‘European Union Action Plan Against Wildlife Trade’, the USA enacted their ‘Eliminate, Neutralise and Disrupt Wildlife Trade Act’, and The People’s Republic of China banned the processing and sale of ivory. The international community is beginning to take action against this serious environmental threat.
 
 
In May 2018, the Hong Kong Government set in motion a phased plan to ban the domestic ivory trade and introduce higher penalties to deter criminals and address the serious nature of wildlife crime. While the Government is commended for these steps, it is important to emphasise the need for strong enforcement of the new legislation, which will require a mindset change. Further, the seriousness, environmental impact, cruelty, and transnational organised nature of wildlife crime indicate the need for greater investigative capacity than is currently allowed under the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance.
 
As a result, in addition to the changes made in May 2018, the wildlife crime crisis in Hong Kong would be better addressed if relevant offences were bought under the Organised and Serious Crimes Ordinance (OSCO). This would allow enforcement authorities more investigative powers, meaning prosecutions would likely extend beyond the low-level smugglers and mules. Money from wildlife crime – potentially billions of dollars could be confiscated, and the technology and specialist investigative skills, needed to tackle organised syndicates could be deployed. The application of OSCO would therefore facilitate deterrent sentencing, investigation and prosecution of major players in wildlife crime, ultimately leading to the disruption and dismantling of syndicates, finally bringing the real criminal to justice.
 
Thank you very much!