Today the Organised and Serious Crimes Ordinance Cap 455 was amended to define smuggling of wildlife as organised and serious crime. This amendment will allow authorities to enforce the criminal law more effectively against the syndicates and kingpins behind the international trade in endangered species. Over the past 2 years over 900 tonnes of of wildlife was seized in Hong Kong. These seizures continue a decade-long upward trend that has seen the decimation of rhino, elephant and pangolin populations, globally, while the criminals funding the slaughter grow rich. The enhanced investigative and punitive powers that will now be accessible to law enforcement authorities tasked with combatting wildlife crime are a potential game changer, not just for Hong Kong, but regionally. If applied proactively, the OSCO amendment will result in critical deterrence of criminals seeking to exploit Hong Kong's porous borders to smuggle endangered species.
Associate Professor Amanda Whitfort has worked for over 7 years to bring about this amendment. She has assisted the Wildlife Trade Working Group (a group of academics and NGOS convened by ADM Capital Foundation)in their advocacy, provided research on illegal trade to government and authored the White Paper on Enhanced Enforcement Strategies to protect Endangered Species that led Elizabeth Quat to propose the OSCO amendment as a private members bill in 2020.
The HKU Law Faculty is also host to Whitfort's species victim impact statement initiative https://www.svis.law.hku.hk/ which aims to ensure prosecutors and judges understand the serious effects of wildlife crime on biodiversity and ecosystems globally. This project has resulted in a 2000% increase in sentences for wildlife crime since its inception in 2017.
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