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U.S. Department of State, "2014 Trafficking in Persons Report," June 20, 2014

The U.S. Dept of State Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons releases an annual report.
June 20, 2014

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The People’s Republic of China (China or PRC) is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Instances of trafficking are pronounced among China’s internal migrant population, estimated to exceed 236 million people. Chinese men, women, and children are subjected to forced labor in brick kilns, coal mines, and factories, some of which operate illegally and take advantage of lax government supervision. Forced begging by adults and children occurs throughout China. There are reports that traffickers are increasingly subjecting deaf and mute individuals to forced labor. Media reports indicate that children in some work-study programs supported by local governments and schools are forced to work in factories.

State-sponsored forced labor continues to be an area of significant concern in China. “Reform through labor” (RTL) was a systematic form of forced labor that had existed in China for decades. The PRC government reportedly profited from this forced labor, which required many detainees to work, often with no remuneration, for up to four years. By some estimates, there had been at least 320 facilities where detained individuals worked in factories or mines, built roads, and made bricks. According to reports, several RTL facilities closed by the end of the reporting period; other RTL facilities were turned into state-sponsored drug detention or “custody and education” centers. NGOs and media report that detainees in drug detention centers are arbitrarily detained and some continued to be forced into labor. Women arrested for prostitution are detained for up to two years without due process in “custody and education” centers, and some are reportedly subjected to forced labor. These women are reportedly forced to perform manual labor—such as making tires, disposable chopsticks, or dog diapers—in “custody and education” centers throughout China.

Chinese women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking within China; they are typically recruited from rural areas and taken to urban centers. Well-organized criminal syndicates and local gangs play key roles in the trafficking of Chinese women and girls in China. Victims are recruited with fraudulent employment opportunities and subsequently forced into prostitution. Girls from the Tibet Autonomous Region are reportedly sent to other parts of China and subjected to forced marriage and domestic servitude.

While many instances of trafficking occur within China’s borders, Chinese men, women, and children are also subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking in other countries. Chinese men and women are forced to labor in service sectors, such as restaurants and shops, in overseas Chinese communities. Chinese men experience abuse at construction sites and in coal and copper mines in Africa, and face conditions indicative of forced labor, such as withholding of passports, restrictions on movement, non-payment of wages, and physical abuse. High recruitment fees, sometimes as much as the equivalent of approximately $70,000, compound Chinese migrant workers’ vulnerability to debt bondage. Chinese women and girls are subjected to forced prostitution throughout the world, including in major cities, construction sites, remote mining and logging camps, and areas with high concentrations of Chinese migrant workers. Traffickers recruit girls and young women, often from rural areas of China, using a combination of fraudulent job offers and coercion; traffickers subsequently impose large travel fees, confiscate passports, confine, or physically and financially threaten victims to compel their engagement in prostitution.

Women and children from neighboring Asian countries, including Burma, Vietnam, Laos, Mongolia, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), as well as from Africa, and the Americas, are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking in China. During the year, Malagasy women and girls were recruited to work in domestic service in China; some of these women and girls were subsequently subjected to forced labor. Zimbabwean women also reported conditions indicative of labor trafficking in a hostess bar. North Korean women were subjected to forced labor in the agriculture and domestic service sectors. The Chinese government’s birth limitation policy and a cultural preference for sons create a skewed sex ratio of 117 boys to 100 girls in China, which may serve to increase the demand for prostitution and for foreign women as brides for Chinese men—both of which may be procured by force or coercion. Women and girls from Burma, Vietnam, Mongolia, Cambodia, Laos, and North Korea are recruited through marriage brokers and transported to China, where some are subsequently subjected to forced prostitution or forced labor.

The Government of the People’s Republic of China does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, the PRC’s National People’s Congress ratified a decision to abolish RTL. Some media and NGOs indicate that the government released detainees from and ceased operations at many RTL camps; others indicate that the government has converted some RTL facilities into different types of detention centers, including state-sponsored drug detention and “custody and education” centers, some of which employ forced labor. The government provided limited information about its investigation, prosecution, and conviction of traffickers; the government’s conflation of trafficking with other crimes made it difficult to accurately assess the government’s law enforcement efforts to prosecute trafficking offenses. Similarly, the government did not provide sufficiently detailed data to ascertain the number of victims it identified or assisted. In 2013, the government arrested a significant number of women in police raids on prostitution rings; it was unclear whether the government screened these women for indicators of trafficking, whether potential trafficking victims were referred to shelters, or whether potential victims were punished for acts committed as a direct result of being trafficking victims. Chinese authorities continued to forcibly repatriate some North Korean refugees by treating them as illegal economic migrants—despite reports that many North Korean female refugees in China are trafficking victims.

Recommendations for China:

Continue to update the legal framework to further refine the definitions of trafficking-related crimes in accordance with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol, including by separating out crimes such as abduction, illegal adoption, and smuggling and criminalizing the facilitation of prostitution involving children under the age of 18; end forced labor in state-sponsored drug detention and “custody and education” centers in China; investigate, prosecute, and impose prison sentences on government officials who facilitate or are complicit in trafficking; expand efforts to institute proactive, formal procedures to systematically identify victims of trafficking—including labor trafficking victims, Chinese victims abroad, and victims among vulnerable groups, such as migrant workers and foreign and local women and children arrested for prostitution; implement procedures to prevent victims from being punished for acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; cease detention, punishment, and forcible repatriation of trafficking victims; expand victim protection services, including comprehensive counseling, medical, reintegration, and other rehabilitative assistance for male and female victims of sex and labor trafficking; provide legal alternatives to foreign victims’ removal to countries where they would face hardship or retribution; increase the transparency of government efforts to combat trafficking and provide disaggregated data on efforts to criminally investigate and prosecute sex and labor trafficking of adults and children; and 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.

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