Protection and prevention of human trafficking in China (TIP2018)

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

The government decreased efforts to protect victims. Unlike last year, the government did not report how many victims it identified during the reporting period, nor did it provide agencyspecific data, although media reports indicated authorities continued to remove some victims from their exploitative situations. The government reported maintaining at least 10
shelters specifically dedicated to care for trafficking victims, as well as eight shelters for foreign trafficking victims and more than 2,300 multi-purpose shelters nationwide that could accommodate trafficking victims. Victims were entitled to shelter, medical care, counseling, social services, and—in some cases—rehabilitation services, all made available through the
Ministry of Civil Affairs, a nationwide women’s organization, and grassroots NGOs. Access to specialized care depended heavily on victims’ location and gender, and the extent to which victims benefited from these services was unknown. The efficacy of the government’s previously reported victim assistance—including its eight border liaison offices with Burma, Vietnam, and Laos, victim funds, hotlines, and government-togovernment agreements to assist victims—remained unclear. Foreign embassies in China reportedly provided shelter or other protective services to victims.

In conjunction with an international organization, authorities sponsored and participated in trainings on victim identification and assistance for consular officials and law enforcement, regulation of marriage migration, and interagency implementation of the national referral mechanism. MPS promulgated written instructions to law enforcement officers throughout the country with the aim of clarifying procedures for identifying victims among individuals in prostitution and those who may be subjected to exploitation via forced or fraudulent marriage. MPS officials reportedly maintained a procedure to screen for trafficking indicators among individuals arrested for alleged prostitution offenses. A 2016 policy limiting the detention of such individuals to 72 hours remained in place. Despite the existence of these procedures, and contrary to the aforementioned policy, law enforcement officials continued to arrest and detain foreign women on suspicion of prostitution crimes without screening them for indicators of sexual exploitation—sometimes for as long as four months— before deporting them for immigration violations. In some cases involving the sex and labor exploitation of Burmese women and girls via forced and fraudulent marriage to Chinese men, rural border officials—particularly in Yunnan—received victims’ complaints, provided them with temporary shelter, and helped to fund and escort their return to Burma. However, observers noted this assistance was ad hoc, and even less prevalent among front-line officers working farther inland, where some foreign victims escaped, reported these abusive circumstances to the authorities, and were summarily arrested and forcibly returned to their Chinese “husbands.” Because the national referral mechanism was not universally implemented across law enforcement efforts, it was likely that unidentified Chinese trafficking victims were also detained following arrest for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of having been subjected to trafficking.

Victims were legally entitled to request criminal prosecution and claim financial restitution through civil lawsuits against their traffickers; the government did not report whether any victims benefited from this provision. The judicial system did not require victims to testify against their traffickers in court and allowed prosecutors to submit previously recorded statements as evidence. Authorities reported repatriating a number of victims in 2017 but did not provide further information, including whether they were Chinese or foreign. The government cooperated with law enforcement agencies in European countries to shutter large-scale telephone fraud operations involving dozens of Chinese and Taiwan individuals. European authorities deemed most of the apprehended suspects in several of these cases to be victims of forced criminality and referred them to protective custody. However, PRC authorities attempted on
multiple occasions to formally extradite these individuals and charge them as criminals, raising further concerns on China’s screening and identification measures.

The government did not provide suspected North Korean trafficking victims with legal alternatives to repatriation. Authorities continued to detain North Korean asylum-seekers and forcibly returned some to North Korea, where they faced severe punishment or death, including in North Korean forced labor camps; it was unclear whether the government screened these individuals for indicators of trafficking. In compliance with a UN Security Council Resolution, the government reportedly repatriated some North Korean labor migrants; they were not screened for trafficking indicators or offered options to legally remain in the country.

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The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. It funded a television show, used traditional and social media, and distributed posters and other materials at transportation and community centers to increase general understanding of the issue, including among vulnerable rural communities. Authorities held a third annual inter-ministerial meeting to
coordinate anti-trafficking efforts. MPS continued to coordinate the anti-trafficking interagency process and lead interagency efforts to implement the National Action Plan on Combatting Human Trafficking. The government did not report the extent to which it funded anti-trafficking activities in furtherance of the action plan (more than 55 million RMB ($8.5 million) in 2016). MPS reportedly sent 350,000 police officers to public schools to educate children about the risks of exploitation.

Academics and experts noted the gender imbalance created by the previous One-Child Policy likely continued to contribute to trafficking crimes in China. Provincial government efforts in 2016 to “legitimize” unregistered marriages between foreign women and Chinese men—a trend that was often permissive or generative of trafficking—were ongoing at the end of the reporting period. The government reportedly began a series of pilot programs to enable Cambodian and Vietnamese citizens to enter legally into southern China for work in hopes of stemming illicit labor migration through especially porous sections of the border; the extent to which this mitigated trafficking vulnerabilities—or to which it was implemented—
was unknown.
The government hukou (household registration) system continued to contribute to the vulnerability of internal migrants by limiting employment opportunities and reducing access to social services, particularly for Chinese victims returning from exploitation broad. The government continued to address some of these vulnerabilities by requiring local governments to provide a mechanism for migrant workers to obtain residency permits. Authorities also commissioned several studies to develop mechanisms for the protection of children whose parents migrated internally for work, leaving them unsupervised and at elevated risk of exploitation; no further details on this initiative were available. The government reported efforts to reduce forced labor by including language in written agreements with foreign businesses and countries explicitly prohibiting trafficking. It attempted to reduce the demand for commercial sex through its ongoing crackdown on corruption and high profile arrests of men soliciting or procuring prostitution.
The government did not report investigating or prosecuting any Chinese citizens for child sex tourism, despite widespread reports of the crime. The government provided anti-trafficking training to its troops prior to their deployment abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions and to its diplomatic personnel.

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