War of words over illegal dump sites in Hong Kong

A war of words has broken out between the Hong Kong government and U.S.-based Basel Action Network over claims by the government that the watchdog had failed to alert the environmental protection department of a number of toxic e-waste sites in the New Territories.
Frank Radel, pixelio.de

Hong Kong’s environmental protection department has been criticized for failing to enforce transboundary laws to restrict the import of electronic waste, following a report by BAN that exposed Hong Kong as a “pollution haven” for US exporters.

BAN used GPS trackers on e-waste and found that 37 out of 65 items were exported out of the US to Hong Kong.

The BAN claims to have alerted the environmental protection department of the specific sites earlier in 2016. However, the department’s spokesman Gary Tam accused BAN of failing to notify them of specific sites.

“Mr. Puckett of Basel Action Network had [not] informed the environmental protection department about the hazardous e-waste entering Hong Kong,” said Mr. Tam.

“We have provided all of the 47 locations that we have discovered to the department via our tracking technology on June 16. Prior to that, we provided them with four sites,” said Mr. Puckett.

“We complained about this as early as 2007, to which the department simply replied that it was difficult [to curtail illegal imports],” added Mr. Puckett.

“Even though Hong Kong responded and agreed to ban notifications of imported e-waste contraband sent to them from the US or Canada, they very rarely prosecuted these cases but merely turned them back to the US, knowing full well that the US government would do nothing to apprehend the exporters,” Mr. Puckett added.

“The operations conducted in New Territories are illegal and if one is truly interested in curtailing illegal imports, the government would very obviously close down the magnet for these imports and not just look at the odd container at the port,” he said.

The South China Morning Post, with the help of BAN, visited a portion of sites where hazardous and legally dubious dismantling of electronic components was taking place. The SCMP found that seven out of ten sites are still in operation.

“In the past five years (2011-15), the department inspected about 3,200 containers and completed prosecutions of around 100 cases,” said Mr. Tam. “All illegally imported e-waste had been returned to the originating places of export,” added Mr. Tam.


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