A Hong Kong trader who pleaded guilty to possessing banned ivory on Tuesday has quit his post on the government’s Endangered Species Advisory Committee.

Lau Sai-yuan was fined HK$8,000 at the Eastern Magistrates Court. He resigned from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department committee on Wednesday, reported RTHK.

Lau Sai-yuan.

NGO WildAid campaigner Alex Hofford had called the penalty overly lenient, as illegal trading is often punished by imprisonment in states across Africa and even mainland China. He said certain elephants and rhinoceroses are moving closer to extinction.

See also: NGO decries ‘lenient’ HK$8k fine for Hong Kong ivory trader who sits on gov’t species committee

The Endangered Species Advisory Committee is responsible for advising the department on the law protecting endangered species. Lau was appointed to it in 2016.

Hofford told HKFP that Lau’s resignation was the only course of action in order to restore the committee’s integrity. He called on the chairperson – traditional Chinese medicine professor Shaw Pang-chui – to vet the remaining committee members to ensure illegal traders do not play any part in it.

“We further urge the government to revise the terms of reference of the committee to rebalance its membership away from industry self-interests and more in favour of NGOs,” he added.

Ivory chopsticks
Ivory chopsticks purchased during a department operation which led to the charges against Lau. Photo: Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.

Hong Kong has banned the possession and trade of ivory poached after 1990, when an international convention against trade in endangered species came into effect. However, traders in Europe are reported to sometimes mix old and newly-poached ivory to circumvent international regulations.

Mainland China imposed a blanket ban on the ivory trade last December, while the Hong Kong legislature has been debating a similar bill since last year.

An Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department spokesperson confirmed to HKFP that Lau resigned from the advisory committee on Wednesday.

Elson Tong

Elson Tong

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.