Tag Archives: Zhejiang Province

Trafficking banned wildlife products moves onto social media: report (China)

Global Times
December 8, 2014
 Wang Hongjun (pseudonym), a 32-year-old businessman from Zhejiang Province in the auto industry, is busy chatting with a supplier on his WeChat account.
On the other end of the chat is not an automotive supplier but an ivory trader.
“I just ordered an ivory ring for my mother for 6,390 yuan ($1,038) from Guizhou Province. It was just like normal online shopping,” Wang said.
A recent survey conducted by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) found that social networking platforms are becoming increasing popular for illegal trading protected animals and their derived products, such as ivory, adding to the already substantial difficulties facing China in its fight against wildlife trafficking.
Online trend
The IFAW study of wildlife trading online, conducted during early 2014, monitored 280 websites across 16 countries for six weeks.
The organization targeted protected species listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
The survey found a total of 33,006 endangered animal bodies and products for sale worldwide, with an estimated worth of about $11 million.
Twenty-one Chinese websites were monitored, with more than 18,590 items found on sale worth a total of $2.74 million. More than 78 percent were ivory products, according to the study’s report, entitled “Wanted — Dead or Alive, Exposing the Online Wildlife Trade” published by the IFAW on November 25.
The IFAW pointed out that a shift away from selling wildlife products via e-commerce to online forums and social media, such as Baidu Tieba and WeChat, has become a new trend.
The IFAW claimed that 55 percent of the items on sale in China were found on Baidu Tieba, which saw 1,154 listings recorded during the survey.
The ivory trade is permitted inside China, but only from a quota of 102 tons was permitted to purchase under a 2007 agreement meant to regulate the trade internationally. Chinese regulations require that every ivory carving company must obtain a license from the authorities and must employ at least one government-approved carving master. Regulations also require that every ivory product weighing more than 50 grams must be documented with photos and a certificate.
There are currently 37 licensed carving companies and 145 sales companies. Sales by other companies and individual are illegal.
Trading under an alias
A search for the Chinese term for ivory on Baidu Tieba, an online forum run by the Baidu search engine, yields a message saying “Under applicable laws and regulations, there are no results to display. Buying is killing, say no to ivory.”
But buyers and sellers never use the Chinese word for ivory, xiangya. Ivory is normally called “xy,” “xya” or “white plastic” online. “It has as many as 17 aliases online,” Wang said. An online forum on Baidu Tieba, named Xya, has 311 registered members and nearly 1,300 posts, with many trading information or pictures of ivory products.
A seller, known as Shenyubaby online, told the Global Times reporter posing as a buyer that he has sold four ivory items in the past two months online.
“First, I post advertisements on online forums or chat groups. Then buyers would contact with me via WeChat for details, such as price,” said the seller who claimed to have a stock of ivory in Fujian Province originally imported from Africa.
The seller sent 12 pictures of ivory products to the Global Times, ranging from raw ivory to accessories carved from ivory. They cost 36 to 100 yuan per gram.
“We can [meet] face-to-face but I also can send the goods to you. It’s safe and the express company will not check,” the seller said.
A dozen sellers reached by the Global Times seemed to do their business in similar ways.
One seller, surnamed Li, told the Global Times that they used to do their business on Taobao but had to shift to social networking platforms after the e-commerce site blocked his online shop, with many keywords related to the trade also blocked.
“WeChat and other social networking platforms are more private as we can talk to the buyers directly. It not easy for the authorities to find us since we don’t need to submit our personal information for account registration,” Li said.
Baidu shut down 24 online forums related to trafficking of endangered species in March 2012, according to Legal Weekly. However, the IFAW pointed out the situation has not improved greatly since then.
The use of aliases makes it difficult for authorities to chase or block the trade, said the report.
Seeking solutions
Wang Juan, a project director with the IFAW, told the Shanghai-based news portal thepaper.cn that social networks should take responsibility for cracking down on such sales.
The proprietors of social networks should develop techniques to filter and ban keywords related to the trade of protected animal products and warn their users, Wang said.
The IFAW suggested that government authorities need to introduce specific supervision of trading on social networks while better supervising logistics companies, Wang added.
China’s Criminal Law allows for sentences of up to five years’ imprisonment for trafficking or purchasing protected wildlife.
However, in order to tackle the new challenges posed by social media, officials and legal experts have asked for an amendment to the country’s animal protection law and related clauses in the Criminal Law.
“Legislation is the key to effectively supervising those websites and the logistics industry,” Zhang Libao, a senior official from the forest public security bureau under the State Forestry Administration, was quoted by the Beijing Daily.
Although China has been frequently criticized for its incompetence in stopping ivory smuggling and driving the illegal ivory trade through soaring demand, the country has stepped up efforts to regulate the ivory market and fight poaching.
On January 6, Chinese government destroyed 6.1 tons of confiscated ivory in Dongguan, Guangdong Province, a first for the Chinese mainland.
Authorities also released information showing that China has investigated 930 criminal cases involving smuggling endangered species in the past decade, arresting and prosecuting 1,395 suspects.

Chinese ivory traders receive sentences of up to 15 years

Kevin Heath, Wildlife News

December 2, 2013

The CITES office in China has released details of a number of cases involving ivory importing and trading. In the most recent case 8 people accused of illegal ivory trading received prison sentences of between 3 and 15 years. The recent case involved the import of 3.6 tonnes of ivory between 2010 and 2012.

The traders had bought the ivory online through an auction website and imported it into China marked as shipments of calligraphy brush canisters  or sewage pipes. The ivory was then sold to customers in China through an online shop.

The leader of the group was sentenced to 15 years in prison and order to forfeit his $500,000 in cash. The sentences were handed out by officials in east China’s Anhui Province for smuggling.

The case is just the latest in a number of high profile ivory trade cases that have been through the justice system in China.

In a very similar case in the neighbouring Zhejiang Province, involving the same means and smuggling route, 10 individuals were sentenced to serve jail sentences of 6.5 to 15 years. Earlier this year, three Chinese citizens in Fujian Province were sentenced to periods of 7 to 15 years imprisonment for smuggling 7.7 tonnes of ivory from Africa.

More recently, on 8 November, 2013, the Supreme Court of southern China’s Guangdong Province upheld the judgment of the “court of first instance” in an ivory smuggling case, as a result of which two ivory smugglers will be jailed for 12 and 14 years for smuggling 1.04 tonnes of ivory.

While sentencing of importers and smugglers of ivory is expected to increase, partly as a result of the CITES ultimatum issued earlier in the year to China, it is not just those involved in the international trade in ivory that are being targeted in China.

People caught buying and selling ivory outside of the regulated and official market are also receiving substantial prison sentences. Earlier this month, a Chinese citizen was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in Beijing for ordering two whole ivory  tusks and 168 small ivory carvings in Guangdong Province, although he claimed that  they were for his own collection.

The new crackdown on illegal trading and the severe sentences being issued by authorities for even small amounts of ivory is also being more widely publicised in the hope to reduce the amount of illegal ivory being traded.

According to China’s Supreme  Court, nearly 700 individuals were prosecuted during the past 10 years, with  subsequent sentences for their involvement in wildlife crime ranging from 3  years to life imprisonment. They stated that ivory-related offences represented  more than half of these cases in recent years.

Commenting on the increase in the number of  prosecutions in China, Mr John E. Scanlon, the Secretary-General of CITES,  stated that, “the efforts made in China to bring criminals involved in illegal  ivory trade to justice are very encouraging. The high penalties being imposed  by Chinese courts send a strong message to the people involved in this illegal  trade and serve as a deterrent to others.”

Dr Meng Xianlin, Executive Director-General  of the CITES Management  Authority of  China, stated that, “the significant seizures of smuggled ivory made in China  (including Hong Kong SAR) show the tremendous efforts made by the country to  combat illegal wildlife trade. Seizure is however not the end of the story, and  we are working to bring more and more criminals to justice. China looks forward  to working even more closely with all countries of origin, transit and destination to  combat illegal trade in ivory. We can only combat wildlife crime effectively if  we all work together. Together we can win this fight.”

John Scanlon added, “The high profit associated with illegal  wildlife trade is a key factor driving the poaching and demand for ivory. The  risk of detection, arrest and prosecution must be increased, and this must go  hand-in-hand with strong penalties. The current spike in elephant poaching and  illegal ivory trade must be matched by a steep rise in prosecutions and  convictions, and these recent developments in China and elsewhere along the  illegal supply chain are a clear step in the right direction”.

China’s Criminal Law to combat wildlife  crime is amongst the most strict in the world. Whilst China abolished the death  penalty for the smuggling of endangered species two years ago, those involved  in illegal wildlife trade in the country still face severe penalties, which can  include a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

China is increasingly active in wildlife  law enforcement, and particularly in ivory-related law enforcement activities.  The National Inter-Agency CITES Enforcement Collaboration Group (NICECG), which  was created two years ago, has played a vital role in enhancing collaboration  among relevant government bodies in the implementation and enforcement of CITES  throughout the country. Earlier this year, China led “Operation Cobra”, the  first cross-continent wildlife law enforcement operation, conducted by police,  Customs and wildlife officers and involving 21 countries in Africa and Asia.