Lawmakers review wildlife law revision for more effective protection

Updated: 2022-09-12

The 36th session of the Standing Committee of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) reviewed the second draft revision to the Law on the Protection of Wildlife on Aug 30, raising new comments and suggestions for building an effective protection network.

The law has undergone four revisions since it came into effect in 1988, with the latest draft under first reading by the NPC Standing Committee in October 2020.

Stronger protection of wildlife

In order to enhance the protection of important habitats for wildlife, the second draft revision requires people's governments at or above provincial level to incorporate such key habitats into national parks or nature reserves. Meanwhile, construction projects are required to avoid such sites and seek the opinions of the competent departments, according to the draft.

Cao Jianming, vice-chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, called on judicial authorities to support the pilot program of ecological restoration in some regions, where violators are required to work in wildlife care and patrol and forest protection for a certain period of time to make up for the damage they caused.

Yang Zhijin, a member of the NPC Standing Committee, noted the importance of joint efforts of the society in wildlife protection and called for such provision in the revision, such as establishing rules for public participation in the endeavor in an orderly and science-based manner.

In the view of Long Xiang, vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the Nanjing Municipal People's Congress, cross-regional protection of wildlife habitat is necessary. He took the Yangtze finless porpoise as an example and explained that this wildlife is found in waterways flowing through several administrative regions, and effective protection requires regional collaboration. Long suggested a new statement be included in the draft that encourages cities divided into districts to pilot collaborative legislation on wildlife protection in accordance with the actual situation.

Tighter regulation on wildlife release

The second draft revision will further regulate the return of animals to the wild. Article 41 stipulates that such release shall not affect the normal life and production of local residents or cause harm to the ecosystem; violators shall be held accountable in accordance with the law.

During the discussions, lawmaker Zheng Gongcheng voiced concerns for unregulated release of wild animals, saying it poses a huge threat to native species and the environment.

For Article 41, Maria Tam Wai-chu, deputy director of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Basic Law Committee under the NPC Standing Committee, suggested a mandatory requirement of seeking permission from the wildlife protection departments at or above the county level before releasing any wildlife, and that the species released should be suitable for field survival in the relevant locality.

For Article 26, lawmaker Li Rui’s suggestion is to prohibit unauthorized release of captive-bred animals under key protection into the wild as they are not ready for survival without training and would affect the environment.

Improving public interest litigation system

During group discussions, a number of lawmakers suggested adding provisions to establish a public interest litigation system.

It's important to make more detailed stipulations in the revision, such as public interest lawsuits in civil and administrative cases, and an ecological compensation mechanism, according to the lawmakers. They also called for active efforts of procuratorial organs in fighting against offences associated with wildlife.

Furthermore, Du Liming, an NPC Standing Committee member, proposed to draw on the successful experience of the Environmental Protection Law and make specific stipulations on the public interest lawsuits initiated by social organizations.

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