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U.S. Department of State, "2011 Trafficking in Persons Report," June 2011
Tier 2 Watch List
China is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Women and children from neighboring countries including Burma, Vietnam, Laos, Mongolia, Russia, and North Korea, and from locations as far as Romania and Zimbabwe are reportedly trafficked to China for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. While the majority of trafficking occurs within China’s borders, there are reports in recent years that Chinese men, women, and children may be subjected to conditions of sex trafficking and forced labor in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Low- and medium-skilled Chinese workers migrate voluntarily to many countries for jobs, but in some countries subsequently may face conditions indicative of forced labor, such as withholding of passports and other restrictions on movements, nonpayment of wages, and threats. High recruitment fees, sometimes amounting to as much as $70,000, compound Chinese migrants’ vulnerability to debt bondage and other situations of trafficking.
Trafficking is most pronounced among China’s internal migrant population, which is estimated to exceed 150 million people. Forced labor remains a notable problem, including in brick kilns, coal mines, and factories, some of which operate illegally and take advantage of lax supervision in the poorer regions of China. There were reports of forced labor, including forced begging, of children and adults during the reporting period, including in Hebei, Shanxi, and Sichuan Provinces. In Xinjiang, for example, media reports in December indicate a construction factory boss enslaved 11 mentally disabled workers who were regularly beaten and forced to work long hours. In Shanxi Province, one mentally disabled worker was lured with the promise of a job paying $10 per day, but was then forced to work in a brick kiln where he was beaten and prevented from escaping. In recent years, workers participating in a government-sponsored program to transfer rural labor to jobs in the interior of China, including children, were allegedly coerced into the program through threats or fines for noncompliance; there were no official reports of this in 2010. Authorities in parts of Xinjiang province reportedly imposed mandatory labor of children for cotton-picking in at least three cases. Forced labor was a problem in some drug detention centers, according to NGO reporting; some detainees were forced to work up to 18 hours a day without pay for private companies working in partnership with Chinese authorities. Many prisoners and detainees in “reeducation through labor” facilities were required to work, often with no remuneration. Authorities held individuals in these institutions as a result of administrative decisions. NGO reports state that forced labor is also a problem in penal institutions. Some reports show working conditions in Chinese manufacturing factories that may indicate forced labor, including forced and unpaid overtime, excessive work hours, restrictions on movement and breaks, and withholding of wages. Some children found in these conditions are particularly vulnerable to forced labor.
There continue to be reports that some Chinese children are forced into prostitution, and various forms of forced labor, including begging, stealing, and work in brick kilns and factories; in previous years, there were reports of children forced into flower selling. Some children in work-study programs supported by local governments have been reported to face conditions of forced labor in factories and farms. The children of migrants are particularly vulnerable to trafficking, although the government implemented programs to provide mentoring and support services to reduce their risk of neglect leading to trafficking. The overall extent of forced labor in China is unclear in part because the government releases only limited information on the subject.
Well-organized international criminal syndicates and local gangs play key roles in both internal and cross-border trafficking. The Ministry of Public Security reported in January 2011 that the number of Chinese women forced into prostitution overseas was rising as they fall prey to international criminal gangs. Experts and NGOs report that China’s population planning policies, coupled with a cultural preference for sons, creates a skewed sex ratio in China, which may contribute to the trafficking of women and children from within China and from Mongolia, North Korea, Russia, Burma, Laos, and Vietnam for forced marriage.
The Government of the People’s Republic of China does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government did not demonstrate evidence of significant efforts to address all forms of trafficking or effectively protect victims; therefore, China is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a seventh consecutive year. China was not placed on Tier 3 per Section 107 of the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, however, the government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan. China increased its attention to trafficking of women and children nationwide; continued inter-agency coordination on anti-trafficking initiatives; established nationwide and local hotlines to report trafficking cases; increased funding for labor inspections; significantly increased prosecutions for offenses the government labeled as trafficking, which includes cases that are not trafficking offenses; updated the criminal code to expand the prohibition on forced labor and increase the prescribed penalty; worked with foreign governments and INTERPOL to improve law enforcement coordination on trafficking; and trained shelter managers on victim protection. The government began drafting the 2012 National Plan of Action for anti-trafficking efforts, which should be released in December 2011, in consultation with international organizations; at the publication of this report, the details of the draft plan were not public. The government’s crackdown on prostitution and child abduction reportedly included rescuing victims of trafficking and punishing trafficking offenders. Nonetheless, China continues to conflate trafficking with child abduction for adoption, rendering the full extent of the government’s anti-trafficking efforts unclear. Despite basic efforts to investigate some cases of forced labor that generated a high degree of media attention and the plans to hire thousands of labor inspectors, the impact of these measures on addressing the full extent of trafficking for forced labor throughout the country remains unclear. China continued to lack a formal, nationwide procedure to identify systematically victims of trafficking; however, the national police academies instituted anti-trafficking training for all new recruits, and a national directive instructed law enforcement officers to treat people in prostitution as victims of trafficking until proven otherwise. The government did not to provide comprehensive victim protection services to both internal and foreign victims of trafficking throughout the country, but is beginning to train shelter managers and refer victims to protection services. Victims may be punished for unlawful acts that were a direct result of their being trafficked – for instance, violations of prostitution or immigration and emigration controls. Chinese authorities continue to detain and forcibly deport North Korean trafficking victims who face punishment upon their return to North Korea for unlawful acts that were sometimes a direct result of being trafficked. The government’s inadequate data collection system continued to impede progress in recording and quantifying anti-trafficking efforts.
Recommendations for China: Continue revisions to the National Action Plan to address all forms of trafficking, including forced labor and trafficking of men; continue to update the legal framework to further refine the definitions of trafficking-related crimes; provide disaggregated data on efforts to criminally investigate and prosecute sex and child trafficking; provide data on the number of criminal investigations and prosecutions of cases identified as involving forced labor, including of recruiters and employers who facilitate forced labor and debt bondage, both within China and abroad; investigate, prosecute, and impose prison sentences on government officials who facilitate or are complicit in trafficking; continue to institute proactive, formal procedures to systematically identify victims of trafficking, including labor trafficking victims and Chinese trafficked abroad, and among vulnerable groups such as migrant workers and foreign and local women and children arrested for prostitution, to ensure that they are not punished for acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; expand victim protection services, including comprehensive counseling, medical, reintegration, and other rehabilitative assistance, as well as assistance to male victims and victims of forced labor; cease the practice of detaining, punishing, and forcibly repatriating North Korean trafficking victims; provide legal alternatives to foreign victims’ removal to countries in which they would face hardship or retribution; expand protection services for Chinese trafficking victims abroad; expand upon existing campaigns to reduce the demand for forced labor and commercial sex acts; improve law enforcement data collection efforts for trafficking cases, consistent with the government’s capacity to do so; and publish the findings of government-sponsored research on trafficking in persons in China and involving Chinese nationals.
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