Ethiopia’s honorary consul to stop advocating ivory trade


Bryan Harris

Date Published
Ethiopia’s top diplomat in Hong Kong has vowed to stop advocating ivory sales, after sparking controversy with his calls to the city’s government in support of the trade.

Honorary consul Dennis Ng Wang-pun would align with the official policy of the government in Addis Ababa to oppose the trade, officials from the African country’s Foreign Office in Beijing told theSunday Morning Post.

The development came a week after the Post revealed that Ng – a former ivory dealer – had written many letters to Hong Kong officials urging them not to ban trade of the precious commodity and to rethink destruction of the city’s illicit ivory stockpile.

In a memo sent to the government this month, Ng said: “There are many ways to handle the ivory stockpile. Destroying the confiscated stockpile or issuing a complete ban on the trade cannot solve the problem.”

The comments generated controversy, given their apparent contradiction with the official stance of Ethiopia, one of the most vocal and aggressive opponents of ivory trading.

In March, Addis Ababa joined a list of 10 other governments worldwide – including Hong Kong – to destroy all or some of their illicit ivory stockpiles.

Since the Post revelation, Ng had been “made aware that the Ethiopian government is fully committed to stopping the ivory trade under any guise and in any form”, a spokesman of the Foreign Office said.

“Therefore, in its official capacity, our honorary consulate general in Hong Kong is expected to fully align with this position.

“Our honorary consul has further clarified that he has no intention of advocating the promotion of ivory trade.

Six tonnes of ivory was destroyed by the Ethiopian government on March 20. Photo: Xinhua”While Mr Dennis Ng is still entitled to his personal views, our embassy is confident that the Ethiopian honorary consulate general in Hong Kong would not publicly or otherwise engage in any advocacy campaign for the promotion of the ivory trade.”

Separately, an assistant to the envoy told the Post the letters only reflected Ng’s personal opinions and that the honorary consul “has no authority to make any comments on any issues on behalf of Ethiopia”.

The Ethiopian consulate is housed inside the Hung Hom premises of Polaris, a jewellery company owned by Ng that previously traded in ivory.

The consulate and the business share the same telephone and fax numbers and the same secretary.

News of the controversy has reached wildlife officials in Ethiopia, who have reiterated the country’s zero tolerance of the trade and trafficking of ivory and have pledged to look into the matter.

Ng is not the first diplomat ensnared in an ivory row.

A report by the non-governmental Environmental Investigation Agency in November said Chinese officials travelling to Tanzania on a state visit with President Xi Jinping bought so much ivory the local market price soared.

The claims were rejected by both the Tanzanian and Chinese governments.