The government maintained insufficient law enforcement efforts.
It continued to report statistics for crimes outside the definition
of human trafficking according to international law, making it difficult to assess progress. Not all statistics were captured by
the central government. The criminal code criminalized some forms of sex and labor trafficking. Article 240 of the criminal code criminalized “abducting and trafficking of women or children,” which it defined as a series of acts (e.g., abduction, kidnapping, purchasing, selling, sending, receiving) for the purpose of selling women and children; however, it did not link these acts to a purpose of exploitation as defined in international
law. A 2016 opinion from the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) interpreting article 240, et seq. established that the selling and buying of persons, along with trafficking, was a banned offense “for any reason […] for whatever purpose according to the law.” Crimes under article 240 were punishable by at least 10 years imprisonment. Article 241 criminalized the purchase of
women or children; like article 240, it did not require that the purchase be done for the purpose of exploitation. Article 358 criminalized forced prostitution and prescribed penalties of five to 10 years imprisonment. Article 359 criminalized harboring prostitution or seducing or introducing others into prostitution, and prescribed a maximum of five years imprisonment and a fine; for the seduction of girls younger than the age of 14 into “prostitution,” it prescribed a sentence of five years or more
and a fine. Penalties prescribed for sex trafficking offenses under
articles 240, 241, 358, and 359 were sufficiently stringent and
commensurate with the penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Article 244 criminalized forcing a person “to work by violence, threat or restriction of personal freedom” and recruiting, transporting, or otherwise assisting in forcing others to labor, and prescribed three to 10 years imprisonment and a fine. These penalties were sufficiently stringent.
The government continued to provide some law enforcement data. However, based on China’s nonstandard definition of trafficking—which may include migrant smuggling, child abduction, forced marriage, and fraudulent adoption—the exact number of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions remained unclear. Unlike last year, the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) did not report the number of investigations initiated
into possible trafficking cases (1,004 in 2016), although media reports suggest authorities continued to investigate some cases.
The SPC reported prosecuting and concluding 1,146 trafficking cases, culminating in 1,556 convictions (1,756 in 2016); this included 1,097 convictions for the trafficking of women and children, 420 convictions for forced prostitution, and 39 convictions for forced labor.
Authorities did not disaggregate conviction data by the relevant criminal code statutes. As in prior years, the vast majority of these cases were not prosecuted under section 240 of the criminal code, and were instead
tried under article 358—especially for those involving sexual
exploitation. The government did not provide sentencing data, but media reports indicated imposed penalties ranged from five months imprisonment with fines of 74,000 renminbi (RMB) ($11,380) to life imprisonment.
The government did not report the number of investigations, prosecutions, or convictions involving cases of children or disabled persons forced to beg or engage in other illegal activities; however, according to media
reports, county- and provincial-level authorities investigated at least 24 cases of disabled persons who may have been abducted or transferred for the purpose of sexual or labor exploitation.
The government handled most cases with indicators of forced labor as administrative issues through the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Services and seldom initiated prosecutions of such cases under anti-trafficking statutes.
The government engaged in law enforcement cooperation with
foreign governments, investigating cases of Chinese citizens
subjected to trafficking in the United States, Africa, and Europe;
however, it was unclear how many of these investigations resulted in prosecutions, and in some instances—namely in Europe—Chinese authorities attempted to extradite the trafficking victims as criminals. During the reporting period, the government increased its consultative partnerships with Lao and Vietnamese law enforcement authorities to jointly address trafficking via the forced and fraudulent marriage of their citizens to Chinese individuals. Some law enforcement personnel in neighboring countries reported their Chinese counterparts were unresponsive to requests for bilateral cooperation on cross-border trafficking cases.
The Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP) and the SPC reported providing
anti-trafficking training for law enforcement or judicial officials at the city and provincial levels without providing detailed information on these efforts, including whether they were held with the assistance of international organizations. In August, the vice mayor of Dongguan and a former member of the National People’s Congress were sentenced to life imprisonment for their involvement in “organizing prostitution” in 2014, but it was unclear whether the criminal acts involved trafficking offenses.
Despite reports of police accepting bribes from sex traffickers,
including brothel owners, the government did not report any additional investigations of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses.