As reported over the past five years, human traffickers subject domestic and foreign individuals to trafficking in China, and they subject Chinese individuals to trafficking abroad. Traffickers also use China as a transit point to subject foreign individuals to trafficking in other countries throughout Asia and in international maritime industries. Well-organized criminal syndicates and local gangs subject Chinese women and girls to sex trafficking within China. Traffickers typically recruit them from rural areas and take them to urban centers, using a combination of fraudulent job offers and coercion by imposing large travel fees, confiscating passports, confining victims, or physically and financially threatening victims to compel their engagement in commercial sex. China’s national household registry system (hukou) continues to restrict rural inhabitants’ freedom to legally change their workplace or residence, placing China’s internal migrant population at high risk of forced labor in brick kilns, coal mines, and factories.
African and Asian men reportedly experience conditions indicative of forced labor aboard Chineseflagged fishing vessels operating in the Atlantic Ocean; men from other regions may be in forced labor aboard these vessels as well. Women and girls from South Asia, Southeast Asia, and several countries in Africa experience domestic servitude, forced concubinism leading to forced childbearing, and sex trafficking via forced and fraudulent marriage to Chinese men.
Traffickers target adults and children with developmental disabilities and children whose parents have left them with relatives to migrate to the cities and subject them to forced labor and forced begging.
State bodies subject members of Muslim minority groups to forced labor as part of arbitrary mass detention and political indoctrination schemes. State-sponsored forced labor is increasingly prevalent in China.
State-sponsored forced labor is intensifying under the government’s mass detention and political indoctrination campaign against Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang). Authorities have arbitrarily detained more than one million ethnic Muslims, in as many as 1,200 “vocational training centers”, internment camps designed to erase ethno-religious identities. According to civil society reports derived from interviews with survivors and family members of current detainees, the government subjects many of these individuals to forced labor in on-site or adjacent factories producing garments, carpets, cleaning supplies, and other goods for domestic and possibly international distribution. Xinjiang authorities issued a notice in 2017 abolishing rural obligatory labor under the hashar system, in which thousands of Uighur adults and children were reportedly subjected to forced labor in government infrastructure projects and agriculture each year. Despite this policy change, similar forms of statesponsored forced labor continue in Xinjiang.
The impact of formal discriminatory employment policies barring Uighurs from jobs in many sectors reportedly drives thousands of Uighur farmers out of their communities in search of alternative work, placing them at higher risk of forced labor. The government reportedly subjects some Tibetans to arbitrary detention featuring similar political indoctrination and forced prison labor practices in the Tibet Autonomous Region (Tibet) and in neighboring provinces. Authorities also reportedly subject some Buddhist clerics to political indoctrination activities and forced labor in monasteries repurposed as factories.
The government subjects Christians and members of other religious groups to forced labor as part of detention for the purpose of ideological indoctrination; survivors report having been forced to work in brick kilns, food processing centers, and factories manufacturing clothing and housewares. Law enforcement officials detain some Chinese and foreign women on prostitution charges without due process in “custody and education” centers, where they are subjected to forced labor. International media report local authorities force children in some government-supported work-study programs to work in factories.
Traffickers subject Chinese men, women, and children to forced labor and sex trafficking in at least 60 other countries. They force Chinese men, women, and girls to work in restaurants, shops, agricultural operations, and factories in overseas Chinese communities. Some are promised jobs abroad and confined to private homes upon arrival overseas, held in conditions indicative of forced labor, and compelled to conduct telephone scams. Traffickers subject Chinese women and girls to sex trafficking throughout the world, including in major cities, construction sites, remote mining and logging camps, and areas with high concentrations of Chinese migrant workers. Chinese traffickers operating abroad also subject local populations to forced prostitution in several countries in Africa, the Mediterranean region, and South America.
The Chinese government’s birth-limitation policy and a cultural preference for sons created a skewed sex ratio of 117 boys to 100 girls in China, which observers assert continues to drive the demand for prostitution and for foreign women as brides for Chinese men—both of which may be procured by force or coercion. Traffickers kidnap or recruit women and girls through marriage brokers and transport them to China, where some are subjected to sex trafficking or forced labor. Illicit brokers increasingly facilitate the forced and fraudulent marriage of South Asian, Southeast Asian, Northeast Asian, and African women and girls to Chinese men for fees of up $30,000. The men—sometimes in partnership with their parents—often incur large debts to cover these fees, which they attempt to recover by subjecting the “brides” to forced labor or prostitution.
Many North Korean refugees and asylum-seekers living illegally in China are particularly vulnerable to trafficking. Traffickers lure, drug, detain, or kidnap some North Korean women upon their arrival in China and compel them into prostitution in brothels, through internet sex sites, or in relation to forced marriage. Traffickers also subject these women to forced labor in agriculture, as hostesses in nightclubs and karaoke bars, in domestic servitude, and at factories.
Adapted from TIP 2019 by the U.S. Department of State