Five arrested in Hong Kong over suspected dog, cat meat found at restaurant operating out of flat

Law enforcement agencies in Hong Kong have arrested four asylum seekers and an illegal immigrant at a suspected unlicensed restaurant operating out of a flat that allegedly served dog and cat meat.

Officers seized 35kg (77lbs) of suspected frozen dog and cat meat from the flat on Shanghai Street in Mong Kok as part of a joint operation on Thursday carried out by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and police.

The 500 sq ft flat on the second floor of a tenement block includes a kitchen, three rooms – two bedrooms and a separate room with two dining tables – as well as a living room with a dining table, according to a police source.

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Authorities launched the joint operation after receiving reports of individuals allegedly selling dog and cat meat on the premises, a spokesman from the fisheries department said.

Samples of the seized meat will undergo testing to determine if it is from the animals. Authorities also discovered menus in Vietnamese on the premises indicating dishes containing meat from the animals.

A 16-year-old boy, along with a 27-year-old man and a 43-year-old woman, all non-refoulement claimants, were arrested on charges related to serving dishes at the site.

The source said a 50-year-old non-refoulement claimant Hong Kong’s de facto asylum seeker status – had been serving cuisine prepared with suspected dog and cat meat in the flat for six months. He was arrested on suspicion of operating a restaurant without a license.

The four were detained on charges of animal cruelty and violating the conditions of their stay under immigration laws.

A 33-year-old man, suspected of being at the flat to meet acquaintances, was found to have entered mainland China illegally, according to authorities. He allegedly travelled to the mainland by hiding in a truck on Monday and subsequently took a boat to reach Hong Kong, leading to his arrest on charges of illegal immigration.

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The fisheries department spokesman said the 50-year-old man could face prosecution for operating an unlicensed restaurant in violation of the Food Business Regulation if evidence was found.

Hong Kong does not grant asylum as the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention does not apply to the city. Instead, it offers non-refoulement, which ensures that asylum seekers will not be returned to a country where they were at risk of persecution or torture.

Those who are granted refugee status can stay in the city until they are resettled to a third country. They are not allowed to work while their applications are being assessed.

The slaughter and sale of dog and cat meat is illegal in Hong Kong, with offenders facing up to six months in prison and a maximum fine of HK$5,000.

The spokesman said prosecution would be pursued if testing confirmed that the seized meat originated from dogs or cats.

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“The [department] will not tolerate having dog or cat flesh for consumption and will follow up seriously,” the spokesman said.

It advised members of the public to report any suspected cases to the department by calling 1823.

Authorities in November last year launched an investigation into an online trader after advertisements showing suspected dog meat were found online.

In April last year, the operator of a frozen meat shop on Reclamation Street in Yau Ma Tei was jailed for 10 weeks for selling feline meat with claims it was from Kaiping in Guangdong province. The 40-year-old was arrested after authorities discovered traces of cat meat among samples taken from the store during a raid.

The commercial slaughter and sale of dog meat has been prohibited on the mainland since May 2020, with the policy taking effect a month after Shenzhen and Zhuhai introduced their own citywide bans on the consumption of dog and cat meat.

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