Public opinion is not the law

Updated: 2015-12-09 08:10

(China Daily)

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Public opinion is not the law

Eurasian hobby [Photo from Sina Weibo]

The lack of wildlife protection awareness among ordinary people has been revealed by people's online expressions of anger at the sentence handed down to a university student in Henan province, Central China. The student was sentenced to 10 and a half years in prison for capturing and selling endangered falcon chicks.

Many people have expressed outrage at what they consider the excessive term of imprisonment, and they have denounced the penalty as cherishing animals more than humans.

Some have doubted the fairness of such a long sentence for what they judge to be a "minor offense", especially since it is harsher than the punishments handed down for rape, drunk driving and other crimes.

All the villagers in the student's hometown, including the local officials, signed a petition asking the court to show leniency. With the tide of public opinion against the sentence, the high people's court in Henan province has confirmed that it will review the verdict.

It is hoped the final ruling is decided by the facts of the case, rather than by public opinion.

According to a prosecutor handling the case, the student had previously bought a crested goshawk online and resold it at a profit. He also knew the more than 10 falcon chicks he had captured and sold were under State protection.

State guidelines stipulate a 10-year-prison term for the catching and trading of more than 10 rare and endangered wild animals. That such a deserved punishment has rarely been extended to endangered wildlife dealers in the past partly explains the inadequate public awareness about the details of the law to protect endangered wildlife.

In fact, the poaching of such protected species always involves large chains of interests in China.

To better protect endangered species a severe crackdown on their illegal capture and trade is necessary.

At the same time, the overwhelming online sympathy for the university student shows more measures are needed to raise public awareness of wildlife protection.