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U.S. Department of State, "2012 Trafficking in Persons Report," June 2012

The U.S. Dept of State Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons releases an annual report.
June 1, 2012

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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 distant as Europe and Africa are reportedly trafficked to China for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. While the majority of trafficking occurs within China’s borders, there are numerous reports that Chinese men, women, and children may be subjected to conditions of forced prostitution and forced labor around the world. Human trafficking of Chinese nationals has been reported in over 70 countries, including every populated continent. Low- and medium-skilled Chinese workers migrate voluntarily to other countries for jobs, but some subsequently face conditions indicative of forced labor, such as withholding of passports and other restrictions on movement, nonpayment of wages, physical or sexual abuse, and threats. High recruitment fees, sometimes 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 221 million people. Forced labor remains a problem, including in brick kilns, coal mines, and factories, some of which operate illegally and take advantage of the lax labor supervision. Forced labor, including forced begging by adults and children, took place throughout China in 2011. In one case of forced labor, 2,000 workers protesting labor conditions were forced to return to work under police surveillance. During the reporting period some children in “work-study programs” were forced to work in farms and factories. There were reports that authorities in Xinjiang required school-age students to pick cotton and engage in other forms of organized labor as part of a work-study program. The forced labor of the mentally disabled continued in the reporting period and was noted in the press in a number of disturbing examples. For example, a reporter disguised himself as a mentally disabled individual and roamed a city’s railway station, soon after which he was thrown into a car and sold by human traffickers for $78 to brick kiln owners to work in their kiln. Also during the reporting period, police rescued 30 mentally disabled men, some of whom had been held for over seven years in appalling conditions in a brick factory, where the men were beaten with belts, and in some cases blinded as a result of their injuries. According to an NGO in China, forced labor cases involving the mentally disabled are prolific, police rarely follow up, and little action is taken against the perpetrators.

Forced, state-sponsored labor is part of a systematic form of repression known as “re-education through labor.” The government reportedly profits from this forced labor. 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. Forced labor was a problem in some of the government’s drug detention centers as well, 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. During the reporting period, over 216,000 former drug users were detained in 165 “re-education through labor” centers, where prisoners are subject to forced labor, often in the form of hard labor, and receive no compensation for their work. Also during the reporting period, media sources widely reported on state-sponsored moneymaking schemes within prisons, including the phenomenon of “virtual gold mining.” The prisoners received no compensation for their labor, and in fact were beaten for failing to complete work quotas.

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. Some children in work-study programs supported by local governments have been reported to face conditions of forced labor in factories and farms. China has millions of child laborers in the country. Well-organized international criminal syndicates and local gangs play key roles in both internal and cross-border trafficking. China’s birth limitation policy, coupled with a cultural preference for sons, creates a skewed sex ratio in China, which served as a key cause of trafficking of foreign women as brides for Chinese men and for forced prostitution.

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 increasing efforts to address human trafficking over the previous year; therefore, China is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for an eighth consecutive year. China was granted a waiver of an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 because its government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute a significant effort to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan.

During the reporting period the Chinese government made public some statistics relating to the sex trafficking of women and children, but these statistics were not disaggregated and included a number of other crimes not related to trafficking, such as kidnapping and smuggling. The government did not release any statistics relating to the trafficking of forced labor victims or the trafficking of men. The government did not provide comprehensive victim protection services to both internal and foreign victims of trafficking throughout the country, but continued to train managers of multipurpose shelters.

The government continued drafting the 2012 National Plan of Action for anti-trafficking efforts, which should be released in December 2012, in consultation with international organizations; at the time of publication of this report, the details of the draft plan were not yet public. In March 2012, the government released data about a variety of crimes, some of them purportedly human trafficking, reflecting an expanded definition of trafficking that included illegal adoption and crimes of abduction. Thus, it is impossible to discern what efforts the Chinese government has undertaken to combat trafficking. 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 non-trafficking crimes such as fraudulent child 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. The government took no discernible steps to address the role that its birth limitation policy plays in fueling human trafficking in China, with gaping gender disparities resulting in a shortage of female marriage partners. The government failed to take any steps to change the policy; and in fact, according to the Chinese government, the number of foreign female trafficking victims in China rose substantially in the reporting period. The Director of the Ministry of Public Security’s Anti-Trafficking Task Force stated in the reporting period that “[t]he number of foreign women trafficked to China is definitely rising” and that “great demand from buyers as well as traditional preferences for boys in Chinese families are the main culprits fueling trafficking in China.” China continued to lack a formal, nationwide procedure to systematically identify victims of trafficking; however, in the past the government issued a national directive instructing law enforcement officers to treat people in prostitution as victims of trafficking until proven otherwise and prohibited police from closing any trafficking-related cases until the victims were located. 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, and these North Koreans face severe punishment, which may include death, upon being forcibly repatriated to North Korea by China.

Recommendations for China: Draft and enact comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation in line with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; cease pre-trial detention of forced labor and sex trafficking victim advocates and activists; seek the assistance of the international community to close “re-education through labor” camps; provide disaggregated data on efforts to investigate and prosecute human trafficking; vigorously investigate and prosecute government corruption and complicity cases, and ensure officials are held to the highest standards of the law; seek the assistance of the international community to bring China’s trafficking definition in line with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol, including separating out non-trafficking crimes such as illegal adoption, abduction, and smuggling; publish the national plan of action to address all forms of trafficking, including forced labor and the trafficking of men; provide data on funds spent on trafficking and law enforcement efforts, including separating out non-trafficking crimes such as abduction, illegal adoption, and smuggling; prohibit punishment clauses in employment contracts of workers, both those working domestically and those working abroad; increase transparency of government efforts to combat trafficking; institute effective victim identification procedures among vulnerable groups, such as migrant workers, the mentally disabled, women arrested for prostitution, and children, and ensure these populations are not prosecuted for crimes committed as a result of trafficking; expand available trafficking shelters and resources, including counseling, medical, reintegration, and rehabilitative assistance to all trafficking victims, including male and forced labor victims; assist Chinese citizen victims of trafficking found abroad; cease 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; educate the public to reduce demand for, and vigorously investigate and prosecute, child sex tourism cases.

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