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China’s rich and powerful take to hunting

2014-12-12 13:38 Global Times Web Editor: Wang Fan

Registered clubs are exempt from gun ban during hunting season

The tragic accident where a woman was accidentally shot to death by an official from Central China's Hunan Province has drawn public attention as media revealed on Thursday that hunting has become increasingly popular among the rich and powerful in China.

Xiao Weidong, who worked for the local food and drug administration, shot 57-year-old woman Luo Yunying in Hengdong county, Hunan to death on November 9 during a hunting trip.

Xiao allegedly joined a local hunting association in 2014, when the association was first established in Hengyang, Hunan Province.

News portal thepaper.cn quoted an anonymous retired judicial official as saying that many local hunting associations have become "clubs for the rich and the powerful."

"There are only limited seats for membership. The unspoken rule was that whoever has power or money can join the clubs," the source said.

A list of members of a hunting club acquired by thepaper.cn showed that many members are officials in city or county governments, or executives of State-owned enterprises.

The head of a hunting association in Miluo, Hunan Province said that people are required to pay 21,500 yuan ($3,474) to join its shooting club and another 8,000 yuan to join the association. Other miscellaneous fees would raise the membership cost to around 100,000 yuan.

Another member surnamed Li said that in other provinces, a five-year membership costs 300,000 yuan.

Li added the hunting associations were initially established to protect crops from wild animals in the early 1990s.

Registered hunting associations can keep guns with the approval of local public security authorities during the hunting season.

China implemented a strict gun policy in October 1996, which says that any group or individual is banned from possessing, manufacturing or trading firearms.

"The guns are strictly managed and should be returned to authorities at the end of the hunting season, which is from September to December," a member told the Global Times, adding that Xiao could have obtained the gun from other sources other than the club.

Environmental workers and volunteers have also said that a growing number of people, many of whom are government employees, have taken to hunting in recent years.

"Many acquire guns from illicit sources," Gao Dali, an environmental protection official from a East Dongting Lake Natural Reserve in Yueyang, Hunan Province, told thepaper.cn.

Gao said civil servants make up about 10 percent of illegal hunting users and the number is rising.

Another anonymous natural reserve employee, however, said half of the illegal hunters are local officials.

"Not just low-level government employees but people with connections and social status," the employee said. "They are powerful people and even if they are caught hunting, they can easily get away with it."

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