'It's Really Good Stuff': Undercover at a Chinese Tiger Bone Wine Auction

The Guardian’s Jonathan Watts goes undercover at an auction in Beijing featuring tiger bone wine, despite the ban on sale of products from endangered animals:

I decided to reveal that I was a journalist so I could ask the backroom auction staff about the apparent illegality of the items on sale. They told me they were produced before the State Council banned all trade in tiger and rhino horn products in 1993 and are therefore legal. But this was a half truth. The State Council also ordered that older items be sealed and removed from sale. Ahead of the auction, conservation groups raised this issue with the government.

[…] Once my journalistic identity was known, however, the police arrived and made a show of locking one of the doors. The staff quietly insisted I leave the hall because I was not a buyer. I do not question their right to do so, but I doubt their motives. (I was not the only person watching without a bidders’ card and nobody had cared about my presence before I started asking questions). I whispered back that I wanted to stay a few extra minutes so I could be sure that the bidding for tiger wine would be halted, as the authorities had ordered. Three plain clothes security men then flanked my chair and kept nudging me to leave.

I quietly held my ground, guessing they would be reluctant to make a fuss in such upmarket company. Soon after it was clear that I had no intention of moving, one of the backroom staff went to the front and whispered something to the auctioneer. It may have been mere coincidence, but a few minutes later, just as the sale of the tiger wine was due to begin, the auctioneer announced a postponement. There were audible groans among the audience.

“It’s a real pity,” one man told me as he walked back to his car. “I came here just for the tiger bone wine. It’s really good stuff, but I haven’t been able to buy any for a long time.”

Read more about China’s efforts to ban the trade of tigers and other endangered animals.


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