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Two Siberians could face death penalty for 'smuggling 213 bear paws into China'

By The Siberian Times reporter
19 June 2013

Pictures of the paws, stashed in the tyres of their vehicle, have gone around the world.

'The demand is huge because more people can afford them and the country has the tradition to treat bear paw as a rare ingredient for cuisine or as an expensive present', Zhang Xiaohai, director of China's external affairs office for Animals Asia Foundation, told the Global Times. Picture: China News 

The men from Trans Baikal region were seized as they crossed Russian-Chinese border driving into the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The men looked 'intense and suspicious' and were stopped at Manzhouli customs.

Alexey Kotelnkikov, Russian Interior Ministry representative in Chita, warned that under Chinese law the two citizens of Trans Baikal region might face death penalty. Punishment if convictions are upheld ranges from five years to the death penalty, it is understood.

Executions in China are carried out by firing squad or lethal injection. Bear parts are highly-prized in China for their perceived medicinal value.

Their sale is illegal. The value of the haul of bear paws was put at $460,000, ten times more in China than Russia. 

The Chinese authorities are holding the men - whose names have not been divulged - as they investigate the intended recipient of the illegal cargo. 

'This case is quite special as it occurred in May, which is not a peak time for smuggling bear paws as the weather is too warm to keep the paws fresh,' said Sun Rongxin, an official from Manzhouli customs. 

'The demand is huge because more people can afford them and the country has the tradition to treat bear paw as a rare ingredient for cuisine or as an expensive present,' Zhang Xiaohai, director of China's external affairs office for Animals Asia Foundation, told the Global Times. 

Zhang warned the number of such smuggling and other illegal trades are increasing in the past two years. 

'Bear farms in China exacerbate the situation as they also sell paws illegally which stimulates the growing trade'.

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