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January 3rd, 2013:

Outrage over ‘shark fin rooftop’

Submitted by kerry.nelson on Jan 3rd 2013, 4:28pm

  • News›Hong Kong

Shark fins drying in the sun cover the roof of a factory building in Hong Kong on Wednesday. Photo: AFP


Agence France-Presse in Hong Kong

Hong Kong conservationists expressed outrage on Thursday after images of a factory rooftop covered in thousands of freshly sliced shark fins emerged, as they called for curbs on the “barbaric” trade.

The city is one of the world’s biggest markets for shark fins, which are used to make soup that is an expensive staple at Chinese banquets and viewed by many Asians as a rare delicacy.

Activist Gary Stokes who has visited the site estimated there are 15,000 to 20,000 fins being laid to dry on the rooftop on Hong Kong island ahead of an anticipated surge in demand over Lunar New Year in February this year.

“This is shocking,” the Hong Kong coordinator for conservation group Sea Shepherd told reporters, saying it was the first time that he has spotted such a massive hoarding of shark fins in one place in the city.

“This is the most graphic, brutal and barbaric part of the industry – the element of chopping a shark’s fin off and throwing it back into the water is horrific and inhumane,” he added.

Stokes believed the large amount of shark fins were destined for China, and that traders moved to dry the shark fins on secluded rooftops instead of sidewalks – as they have done in the past – to avoid public anger.

Campaigns against consuming shark fins have gained ground in Hong Kong in recent years, after major hotel chains decided to drop the soup from the menus, and Cathay Pacific said in September it would stop carrying unsustainable sourced shark products on its cargo flights.

“The demand in Hong Kong is definitely decreasing but unfortunately, the demand in China is growing,” Stokes said.

“As long as there is no protection for the sharks, the (demand) will just keep going on and on,” he added, urging Hong Kong authorities to ban the trade.

Environmentalists say the sustainable shark fin industry is tiny and most of the products are harvested in a way that threatens scores of shark species deemed vital for healthy oceans.

About 73 million sharks are killed every year, with Hong Kong importing about 10,000 tonnes annually for the past decade, according to environmental group WWF. Most of those fins are then exported to mainland China.

The number of threatened shark species has soared from 15 in 1996 to more than 180 in 2010, mainly due to the growing Chinese demand for fins.


Shark fins

Sea Shepherd

Gary Stokes

Lunar New Year

More on this:

Hong Kong police bust loan-shark syndicate; 17 arrested [1]

Cathay Pacific bans shark fin from its cargo flights [2]

Angry merchants protest against Cathay Pacific’s shark fin ban [3]

Source URL (retrieved on Jan 3rd 2013, 5:12pm):


Most cities expected to fail to meet stricter new air pollution standards

Submitted by admin on Jan 3rd 2013, 12:00am



Shi Jiangtao in Beijing

Stricter air quality measurements on mainland are seen as step forward in government transparency, but only five of 120 cities hit standard

Only five of 120 mainland cities logged “blue-sky days” on New Year’s Day as the first up-to-the-hour air quality readings were reported under tougher pollution standards.

Data posted on the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s website yesterday showed that most cities saw “moderate” levels of sulphur dioxide and PM10, or large particulate matter, with 29 cities showing slight pollution.

In Beijing, even the chilly winter winds failed to clear the smog, with most of its 35 monitoring stations showing “moderate” air pollution. The 24-hour reading of PM2.5 fine particulates in the southern area of Yizhuang stood at 153, or moderate pollution.

The outskirts of the city seemed to fare the worst. The remote Liulihe monitoring station in the southwestern suburbs of Fangshan district recorded the worst air quality index (AQI) in the city, 210. Several cities that are near the capital, such as Baoding, Shijiangzhuang and Tianjin, saw the worst pollution in the country.

The environmental ministry warned last year that at least two out of three of cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou would fail to meet the revised air quality standards, which still lag behind World Health Organisation recommendations.

The new standards announced in March apply to ozone, carbon monoxide and PM2.5 – particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter that are linked to respiratory diseases – along with sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and large particulate matter. Figures are reported hourly from 496 monitoring sites in 74 cities.

More than two dozen cities have begun updating daily PM2.5 readings in the past few months. Several, including Beijing and Guangzhou, are providing real-time PM2.5 data on a trial basis.

But Tuesday was the first time that the 74 biggest cities – mostly municipalities, provincial capitals and affluent commercial hubs in the Pearl and Yangtze river deltas – published hourly and daily pollution readings on government websites.

“It’s remarkable that the number of cities offering public access to real-time PM2.5 data has gone from zero to 74 in just over a year,” said Ma Jun , director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs.

Heeding public concerns over the quality of the monitoring data, Wan Bentai , a chief engineer at the Ministry of Environmental Protection, said in a statement that authorities were focused on ensuring minimum interference from local governments during the release of pollution readings.

Environmental officials in Beijing said the adoption of the new standards would also mean the end of the mainland government’s tally of blue-sky days, which had been widely criticised as glossing over the truth about pollution.

Sanya , in Hainan , was among the five cities to get the rating yesterday.

“It is simply unacceptable that local authorities such as those in Beijing have said air pollution will not be brought under control until 2030 given the palpable human toll of smog problems,” Ma said.

“How difficult can it really be to control the sources of pollution and cut emissions?”




air quality measurements

Source URL (retrieved on Jan 3rd 2013, 8:09am):

Policy address is key for CY to salvage waning popularity

Submitted by admin on Jan 3rd 2013, 12:00am

News›Hong Kong


Gary Cheung and Olga Wong

Leung likely to announce populist measures %in an effort to revive his flagging popularity

The environment and education are two of the main issues to be raised by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in the policy address that he is writing under mounting political pressure following Tuesday’s protest marches.

The speech, which is scheduled to be delivered on January 16, is seen as the key to boosting Leung’s flagging popularity. But a former senior government adviser says he is not optimistic it will help the chief executive regain support and overcome a political stalemate.

Professor Lau Siu-kai, former head of the Central Policy Unit, said the turnout for the anti-government march on Tuesday, which was significantly higher than in previous new year marches, was a warning.

Lau said the rallies organised by the rival camps on Tuesday were evidence of heightened polarisation, which was also a matter of concern in Beijing.

According to a source familiar with the drafting of the policy address, it will contain populist measures, such as implementing 15 years of free education, including subsidies to kindergartens for teachers’ wages.

Roadside air quality will also be among the measures, in which billions of dollars will go to the Environment Bureau to subsidise the phasing out of older, higher polluting vehicles. Forming a land reserve for housing will also be included.

In the largest demonstration, organisers said more than 130,000 people marched to demand Leung’s resignation while police put the turnout at 26,000.

Lau was pessimistic about whether Leung could resolve the political stalemate he faced with a policy address. “If Leung puts forward drastic and ambitious measures, which incur long-term public spending, it would only spark bigger controversy.”

Xinhua reported that Zhang Xiaoming, director of the central government’s liaison office, had met Leung but did not say when. Released a day after the march, the report quoted Zhang as saying Leung’s policies had won wide recognition from society and that state leaders had affirmed his work.

A University of Hong Kong public opinion programme survey from December 18 to December 28 found Leung’s popularity rating scored 49.1 out of a possible 100 marks, down 0.1 from a poll between December 1-4.


Leung Chun-ying

Policy Address


More on this:

It’s not the number of protesters that counts, it’s what they are saying [1]

City’s activists get more radical to ensure they are heard [2]

Lawmakers say their arrests at New Year’s protest were political [3]

Colonial history won’t be waived at Tai Da Flags [4]

Protest organisers inflate figures to expand cause, says academic [5]

Source URL (retrieved on Jan 3rd 2013, 8:01am):