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Legal experts question lifetime panda bans

By Cao Yin | China Daily | Updated: 2024-06-20 09:39

Legal experts agree that visitors to scientific research bases who behave in an uncivilized way should be penalized, but suggest a more prudent approach be adopted when considering the imposition of lifetime bans.

Ten people were permanently barred from a giant panda sanctuary in Sichuan province recently for improper acts involving the much-loved national treasures.

Details of the breaches, including throwing items such as candy bars, eggs or cigarettes at pandas and spitting on them, were disclosed by the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding on its WeChat account on Monday.

One 54-year-old man, surnamed He, was banned from visiting the sanctuary for life after he was found to have thrown cigarettes into the outdoor panda enclosure on May 1, the base said.

A permanent ban was also given to a 39-year-old tourist surnamed Lyu on Saturday after she allowed her child to throw bread at the pandas during a visit.

Staff members immediately removed the items before any harm could occur, "but considering the tourists' behaviors might have caused serious damage to the pandas, we've given them a lifetime ban from entering the area," the base said.

Zhu Wei, deputy head of the Communication Law Research Center at the China University of Political Science and Law, said he understood the punishments meted out by the panda sanctuary.

"Improperly feeding animals, especially precious wildlife, is dangerous for both the animals and visitors," he said.

When tourists purchase tickets, they are essentially entering into a contract with a scenic spot, meaning they are promising to abide by the rules for visitors, Zhu said.

"If someone fails to keep their promise and violates the agreement, receiving penalties is reasonable," he said.

But while Zhu supported the original intention behind the punishments imposed by the panda sanctuary, he added that permanent bans for all uncivilized behaviors seemed a bit harsh.

"For first-time violators, for instance, a warning or a temporary ban can be considered," he said.

Xu Hao, a lawyer at the Beijing Jingsh Law Firm, said that according to a Ministry of Culture and Tourism regulation on punishments for uncivilized behaviors, scenic spots can record visitors' inappropriate acts and store such information for up to five years.

"Giant pandas, as precious animals, must be strongly protected, but there is a lack of legal basis for such a lifetime ban in the current regulation and laws, so scenic spots, such as the panda sanctuary, should be more prudent to prevent the penalty from being abused," he said.

Last year, some people were banned from visiting the panda sanctuary for a year.

Earlier this month, a livestreamer was permanently banned from all facilities run by the China Giant Panda Conservation and Research Center in Sichuan for improperly livestreaming footage of the pandas from the center's Shenshuping base in the town of Wolong, despite multiple warnings from local government workers, police and staff members at the base.

Xu said punishments for uncivilized behavior by tourists need to be made more clear. "For example, what kind of behavior constitutes serious harm to animals and what should the standard duration of a ban be?" he said.

Shan Yanwei, a lawyer from Henan province, called on scenic spots to encourage civilized travel by increasing the use of technological means to monitor crowded areas and offering rewards to tourists who help prevent uncivilized behaviors.

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