An official in southern China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region is feeling the heat after allegations he served up a dish of endangered and protected pangolin, one of the world’s most trafficked species, to a visiting Hong Kong businessman.
Despite the fact that the photographs purporting to show the incident were uploaded to Weibo a year-and-a-half ago by Calvin Lee Ka-wo, son of Hong Kong watchmaker David Lee Fook-sang, the case only recently made headlines in Chinese media. That was after a Chinese netizen named the officials involved, sending the story viral.
In the captions to the photographs, Lee reportedly wrote of his appreciation to Guangxi officials identified only as “Secretary Huang” and “Director-General Li” for the meal and his first taste of pangolin, which “tastes very good.”
A Chinese netizen pointed out on Monday that “Secretary Huang” should be Huang Wenbiao, communist party secretary at the Guangxi Investment Promotion Bureau.
It is illegal to eat pangolin under Chinese law. Officials who serve the State Category II protected species would also violate the party’s anti-extravagance rules launched by President Xi Jinping in 2012.
All of the six species of pangolin found in Asia and Africa were last year afforded the highest level of legal protection under CITES, the global regime to control the trade in wildlife. The new rules that came into effect this year ban all commercial trade in specimens taken from the wild.
A Guangxi provincial government official told Legal Evening News on Monday that the case is under investigation. A commentary published in the People’s Daily on the same day also called for the Party’s anti-corruption body to probe the case.
The photographs of the meal have since been removed from the Weibo account under Lee’s name, along with other examples of meals with officials, Legal Evening News reported.
Guangxi Investment Promotion Bureau, which Huang still heads, said Monday none of the people in the pictures works there. No officials named Huang or Li worked for the bureau between its establishment in 2004 and July 15, 2015 — when the photographs were uploaded. It said Huang Wenbiao was on a training course in Singapore between July 6 and 17, and only took office on August 10.
Huang told journalists that the person in the photographs wasn’t him.
The organizers of the business trip on Wednesday published a statement in Hong Kong newspapers saying that the three-day trip ended a day before the meal and they weren’t responsible for what happened afterward. The statement also criticized Lee for failing to obey China’s laws.