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H.E. Ambassador Lin Songtian Introduces China's Policies and Actions on Wildlife Protection

On 18 November, Saturday Star published an article by H.E. Ambassador Lin Songtian titled China’s strong commitment to protection of wildlife. The full text is as follow:

The Chinese government always attaches great importance to wildlife protection. During the recently concluded 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which set out the blueprint and basic policies for China's next five years and beyond, the Congress solemnly declared to the world that China is earnestly committed to striving for harmony between human and nature, to building a beautiful China and building a beautiful world. This is the strong political commitment of our Party, government and people to show the world our pursuit of wildlife and environment protection.

The Chinese government has worked unremittingly to push for stricter laws and regulations and for their strict enforcement and oversight. As early as 1950, China adopted the Methods to Protect Rare Biological Species. Since 1978, China has adopted the Law on the Protection of Wildlife, Regulations for the Implementation of the Protection of Terrestrial Wildlife and many other laws and regulations on wildlife protection. In recent years, China has amended the Law on the Protection of Wildlife in a timely manner, established relevant mechanisms, took effective measures, intensified the customs clearance efforts, and cracked down hard on illegal and criminal acts. China has made fundamental efforts on the elimination of illegal trade in endangered species. In 2014, China's legislature, the National People’s Congress made it a criminal offence to purchase or consume wildlife and its products. In 2016, China promulgated the Government Circular on Phasing Out the Commercial Processing and Sales of Ivory and Ivory Products, which set to end the commercial processing and sale of ivory and its products stage by stage by 31 December 2017. Given China's well-cherished ivory artisanship which has lasted for tens of centuries, it was a tough decision to put an end to all ivory products, including those that are legally sourced. This decision is the strongest evidence of China's resolve and commitment to address any crime against wildlife.

The Chinese government has taken comprehensive efforts to crack down on illegal trade in wildlife and their products. For every Chinese citizen, upon landing in South Africa, the first SMS message they will receive from the Chinese Foreign Ministry is a stern warning against “illegal purchase or transportation of ivory and other wild animals and plants and their products”. In January 2014, the Chinese government publicly destroyed 6.15 tons of ivory, and in May 2015, the Chinese government publicly destroyed 662 kilograms of ivory confiscated by law enforcement. It cannot be denied that unfortunately, still few Chinese are engaged in illegal hunting and smuggling of wild animals and plants and their products. For them, the Chinese government exercises the policy of “zero tolerance”, and strongly supports African countries including South Africa to punish the criminals according to law. This is a never-ending struggle, and I'm sure few individual cases not be used to represent the whole of China or to discredit China’s efforts as well as progress in wildlife protection.

The Chinese government has been actively engaged in international efforts to fight crimes against wildlife. As a contracting party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), China fulfills its obligations in good faith and takes multiple measures to protect wildlife, including through national legislation, institution development, trade management, law enforcement and oversight, capacity building and public participation. China supports the resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly to combat illicit wildlife trafficking and has signed intergovernmental agreements with many countries on cooperation in protection of wildlife. From 2013 to 2015, China, South Africa, the United States, and the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) have carried out three anti-smuggling endangered species activities code-named “Operation COBRA”, effectively curbing criminal activities such as smuggling ivory. A new round of multi-country campaign and joint action with African countries, Hong Kong and the Interpol is underway and China is taking important efforts of coordination in its regard.

The Chinese government highly appreciates and fully respects the efforts of South Africa and Africa to protect wildlife, and will further strengthen relevant cooperation to enhance wildlife protection. During his visit to Africa in May 2014, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced an assistance of 10 million USD to Africa, demonstrating China's sincerity and determination to work together with Africa to strengthen cooperation in wildlife protection. In 2015, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Johannesburg Plan of Action (2016-2018) clearly stipulates that China will strengthen cooperation with Africa in the field of the protection of wild flora and fauna, help African countries to enhance the capability building in wildlife protection, and jointly combat illicit trade in wild animals and plants, particularly poaching of elephants, rhinoceros and other endangered species on the African continent.

In 2014, the Chinese Embassy in South Africa, in cooperation with the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa, adopted five rhinoceros and two red pandas. The Chinese Embassy has been carrying out fruitful cooperation with the South African police and other relevant government departments.

Wildlife protection is a never-ending struggle. Moving forward, China will continue to intensify joint efforts with the international community including the African governments and wildlife conservation organizations to combat any illegal trade in wild animals and relevant products, and make further progress in wildlife protection.

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