A member of a group advising Hong Kong's government on how to protect endangered species has pleaded guilty to possessing illegal ivory. Lau Sai-yuan, who also sits in the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce, was fined HK$8,000 (£756).

The conviction comes as an embarrassment less than two weeks after China – the world's largest importer of elephant tusks – enforced a blanket ban on ivory sales in the county in an effort to reduce the number of animals being killed.

Hong Kong's government said last year that it aims to phase out ivory trade in the city – where ivory has been traded for more than 150 years – within the next half-decade.

An investigation found that Lau and another ivory trader had sold ivory chopsticks made from materials obtained after a ban implemented by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1990.

Ivory obtained before the ban is still allowed to be traded, if it's accompanied by a certificate stating so.

Lau could serve as much as two years in jail, which is currently the maximum sentence. Lawmakers are considering upping the punishments, however, to fines of up to HK$10 million and sentences as long as ten years.

A website for Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department's (AFCD) states Lau has been a member of its Endangered Species Advisory Committee since October 2016, with an expiry date set for 31 September 2018.

Wildlife campaigner Alex Hofford told The Independent: "We believe that it would be highly unethical for Mr. Lau, a high-profile Hong Kong ivory trader and convicted wildlife criminal, to continue to serve out the rest of his term."