China at Heart of Illegal Timber Trade Greenpeace Says
BEIJING China lies at the heart of a global trade plundering endangered rainforests in Southeast Asia to supply Europe and the United States, the environmental group Greenpeace said in a report issued in Beijing on Tuesday.
The report described how timber from unlicensed logging in Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea was shipped to China and turned into furniture plywood and veneer, often sold to developed countries.
"A significant part of China's timber imports comes from illegal or destructive logging," Sze Pang Cheung, a Beijing-based campaign manager for Greenpeace, told reporters at the launch of the report. "Developed countries' demand for Chinese products is fuelling the global forest crisis."
Half the tropical logs traded worldwide were destined for China, and many of those logs camed from Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, where illegal logging and flagrant over-felling were widespread, Sze said.
He cited Indonesian government estimates that in 2004, 76 percent of timber produced came from illegal logging.
Sze said Greenpeace had no firm estimate of the proportion of China's plywood exports that came from illegal logging. But he said the percentage was "high," noting vast discrepancies in countries' customs statistics and China's growing dependence on wood from Southeast Asia's lush but rapidly shrinking forests.
Half the tropical logs traded worldwide were destined for China, he said. In 2004, Chinese customs recorded imports of 2.8 million cubic metres of timber from Malaysia and Indonesia, but those two countries recorded shipping only 1.66 million cubic metres of timber to China.
Environmental advocates stressed that responsibility for halting the illegal trade rested not only with Beijing. Consumers and companies in rich countries were turning a blind eye to illegalities, said the Greenpeace report.
"China, Europe, the USA, Japan and other consuming and timber supplying countries must equally share the blame for ancient forest destruction," the report said.
It said that at current rates of destruction, remaining forest reserves were not enough for developed countries, not to speak of growing consumers like China.
The Chinese government has acknowledged that some Chinese companies are involved in illegal logging in Southeast Asia, including neighbouring Myanmar.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday the government was acting to staunch illegal timber imports.
"We will also take measures to harshly punish illegal logging," the spokesman, Qin Gang, told reporters at a regular news briefing in Beijing.
"We are willing to consult with relevant countries in Southeast Asia in this regard to make joint efforts."