KINSHASA: A Chinese timber company exported millions of dollars of illegal timber from DR Congo to China last year, Global Witness said on Wednesday (Oct 25), despite Beijing’s pledge to tackle global deforestation.
Using satellite imagery, the NGO reported that despite Chinese-owned Congo King Baisheng Forestry Development’s logging concessions being suspended by the country’s environment ministry in April 2022, the company continued to illegally log rare hardwood trees in the rainforest.
The firm exported more than US$5 million worth of illegal timber from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to China between June and December 2022, according to a report published on Wednesday.
The timber was shipped to its parent company, the Chinese conglomerate Wan Peng International via Zhangjiagang port, near Shanghai.
Global Witness, which says it challenges abuses of power to protect the environment and human rights, tracked shipping movements from the DRC to China and compared them with China Customs data.
The international organisation said the report highlights governance issues facing the DRC’s logging industry, including “corruption, illegal logging, and conflict with forest communities”.
When a commission of DRC ministers visited 52 logging concessions this year, fewer than one in four were found to operate to the legal standard.
The Congo basin boasts the world’s second-largest tropical rainforest after the Amazon, “playing a vital role in regulating Earth’s climate”, the report said.
Charlie Hammans, Forests Investigator at Global Witness, said: “As one of biggest consumers of timber globally, China can be a key part of the solution to global deforestation, and the Chinese authorities must crack down on companies exploiting the DRC’s precious forests for profit.”
The NGO noted that despite Beijing vowing “to enforce its laws to tackle global illegal deforestation, the report shows that China still does not prohibit illegal timber imports in practice”.
“This inhibits its ability to enforce and realise its international commitments.”
Global Witness said it did not receive a response from Wan Peng International or the DRC government when approached for comment.
The report was released on the eve of the “Three Basins Summit” in Brazzaville, capital of neighbouring Congo. The gathering covers the Amazon, Congo and Borneo-Mekong in Southeast Asia from Oct 26 to Oct 28 in an effort to preserve and restore the world’s ecological lungs.