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Amendments to Hong Kong’s Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Bill were launched last month in the territory’s Legislative Council.
The bill, which is still in the process of being enacted, aims to ban the import and export of worked and raw ivory by 2021.
However, although the bill is stricter on modern elephant ivory, a clause stipulates that trade in antique elephant ivory from before July 1925 will still be possible.
“Cultural and artistic significance”
British Art Market Federation chairman Anthony Browne said: “This indicates there is consensus, following decisions in mainland China and Europe, that there should be special arrangements for antique works of art containing ivory of cultural and artistic significance.”
The 1925 date is used in Hong Kong as it is 50 years before the CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) agreement came into force in July 1975.
Different countries use different dates – for example in the UK and Europe the date used to determine antique works of art containing ivory is 1947. In China the date is 1949, which is the date the People’s Republic of China was founded.
At the end of 2016, China announced its plans to issue a ban on the trade in domestic ivory by the end of 2017.
Demand for ivory in Asia has fuelled the illegal trade and the slaughter of thousands of elephants each year in Africa.
UK trade associations representing the art and antiques sector, although supportive of steps to end the illegal trade in poached modern ivory, argue the case to allow the trade in antique objects containing ivory.
Associations believe the trade in genuine antiques and works of art with ivory elements does not support the illicit market for poached ivory.