You might not be aware that Yao Ming, the former Houston Rockets center and NBA legend, is a delegate in the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Though China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), is technically unicameral, the CPPCC is often considered the Upper House of China’s Two Assemblies. According to Yao, “the CPPCC can provide a platform for the ruling party to hear the different voices of the people and to solve their problems.”
Elected last year to serve a five-year term in the Conference, Yao Ming has put environmental and public health issues front and center. Yao has decried the shortage of physical education teachers in China and the decline in the health of youth, recommending that Beijing expand its hiring quotas for P.E. teachers and pass legislation to insure students from accidental injuries during exercise. But now, Yao has put forth a motion calling for a ban of the ivory trade in China and promoting awareness of elephant and rhinoceros endangerment.
NPR’s Anthony Kuhn reports that a recent survey by WildAid indicates “strong popular support among urban Chines for a ban on ivory sales,” and that Xi Jinping’s “ongoing crackdown on government corruption” could put a dent in demand for illegal ivory. Yao Ming visited Africa in 2012 to begin filming “The End of Wild,” a documentary about the illegal trade in ivory and rhinoceros horn, and has partnered with WildAid, Save the Elephants, and the African Wildlife Foundation to promote the issue.
China is a major consumer of illegally traded goods, including iron ore from Mexico, timber and agricultural produce from Myanmar, and gold, ivory, and rhinoceros horn from Zimbabwe. The question remains, if Yao Ming is successful in banning the ivory trade, will the ban be effective? And how will increased ties between China and African nations—including Zimbabwe—(mentioned in previous posts by John Helvey and Austin Tamayo) affect the trade in illegal goods?