On the issue of shark fin soup, recently three characters told us something about themselves.
Photo: Liang Chen / Global Times
The Good: A Beijing restaurant Jin Ding Xuan (北京金鼎軒酒樓 aka Golden Tripod Attic Restaurant) has taken a courageous move to stop selling shark fin soup. They not only just stop selling it, they actually made a large advocacy poster in front of their restaurant to explain their new policy and call on customers to stop eating shark fin soup. (Note 1). In other words, not only that they have done it, they have done it boldly.
The Bad: Well, at least for a few days, Citibank HK was bad. In mid July (2010) it launched a marketing campaign jointly with Maxim's restaurant using shark-fin soup as the attraction. Like similar instances before with the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and Disneyland Hong Kong, this apathy of environmental concerns caused an outcry both in Hong Kong and world wide. Thanks to the many netizens who participated in a Facebook campaign (Note 2) and mass email campaign, Citibank HK (and later Citibank Asia-Pacific too) redeemed itself within a few days. Like HKU and Disneyland Hong Kong who corrected themselves subsequently, Citbank HK heard the protest and scraped the marketing campaign. This story even made into New York Times (Note 3) and Financial Times (Note 4).
The Ugly: How about our Hong Kong Government? In June (2010), a green group Green Sense ( 環保觸覺 ) issued a questionnaire to 56 government departments, asking whether they have any internal guidelines banning shark fin soup in their business banquets. Of all the departments, only one -- Hong Kong Observatory (HKO) -- has such an internal ban. While we applaud the noble position of HKO, we must point out that Environmental Protection Department (EPD), the department who should have been a leader in this subject matter, issued a response declining to comment on whether there is, or whether there should be, any internal ban on shark fin soup. Many other departments, including the Office of Chief Executive, later cited the same response as their own. (Note 6)
This was exactly the same position of Hong Kong Government five years ago, prepared by then Secretary for the Environment, Transport, and Works, Dr. Sarah Liao, at the Legislative Council meeting on Dec 14, 2005 (Note 5).
In other words, after 5 years of public petitioning and campaigning, and several high-profile public outcries, our Government is still living in the last century. During this period, it is estimated that another 350-500 millions of sharks have been killed for their fins, of which half of them were traded through Hong Kong.
While we do not expect that Hong Kong Government can act boldly and swiftly like the Hawaii State of the US, who imposed a total ban of shark fins this July, we still hope our government can at least issue an internal ban of shark fin soup in their business banquets. If HKU and Disneyland HK and Citibank HK can do it, why can't our government do the same? Even excluding any environmental concerns, it is already questionable whether our civil servants should spend excessive public money on luxury food items such as shark fins.
From the recent farces of Tai Long Sai Wan and Hoi Ha, we can see again and again that Hong Kong Government is not demonstrating leadership in its conservation policies. It is always falling behind the public. Way behind.
Note 1: Global Times (2010-07-29) "Jaws in danger" http://bit.ly/aW1n94
Note 2: Facebook page "Citibank HK, stop the shark-fin soup promotion!" http://bit.ly/bPfC4F
Note 3: New York Times (2010-07-21) "A Shark Fin Promotion Backfires" http://bit.ly/9skzkp
Note 4: Financial Times (2010-07-22) "Citi learns the hard way: don't mess with sharks" http://bit.ly/daoXHG
Note 5: LCQ20 (2005-12-14) "Government attitudes towards not serving shark's fin dishes at banquets" http://bit.ly/akDgPe
Note 6: Mingpao (2010-06-14) (In Chinese) "無翅飲宴多部門沒指引 天文台響應 環保署含糊" http://bit.ly/bHNIZz
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