There was outrage last week when a well-respected, U.K.-based nongovernmental organization issued a report alleging that China’s presidential plane was used twice — in 2009 and 2013 — to smuggle ivory out of Tanzania.

While the charges remain unproven, they raised uncomfortable questions about whether associates of Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping may have been flouting China’s international commitments to stem the trafficking of endangered species. China’s Foreign Ministry issued a quick and indignant denial. “China attaches great importance to protecting elephants and other wild animals,” a spokesperson told a press briefing in Beijing. “We have been cooperating with other countries in this area.”

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