American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is a popular product that Hong Kong visitors purchase for personal use or as gifts for friends and family members. It is nonetheless a restricted item in Hong Kong under the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance in accordance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Import of American ginseng into Hong Kong requires a CITES export permit issued by the authority of the exporting country (Division of Management Authority, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in the United States of America), and in some cases a licence to import from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) of Hong Kong. A person who imports American ginseng into Hong Kong without the proper document(s) may be subject to a fine of HK$5 million and imprisonment for 2 years, and the American ginseng may be seized.
However, exemption is provided for import of American ginseng into Hong Kong as personal or household effects, and an export permit is not required if it is –
- legally acquired;
- carried by person or included in personal luggage; and
- in a small quantity for personal use.
The above exemption does not apply to import from certain countries (including Mainland China, European Union countries, Indonesia and Japan).
There are over 30,000 species listed under CITES that are subject to import restrictions. Common examples include basking shark fin, caviar, seahorses, cacti, orchids, and dendrobium.
For enquiries or additional information regarding import of American ginseng and other endangered species into Hong Kong, you may contact AFCD by calling its hotline (852) 2150 6973, email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.cites.org.hk