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HK retains downgrade in new US anti-trafficking report

06 July 2017

Hong Kong has come out strongly against its being relegated to tier 2 for the second year running in the new US State Department report on human trafficking, saying it did not get a fair and objective assessment of its effort to combat the problem.

In a statement issued on June 27, the HK government said: “There are inaccurate descriptions of our work, and groundless assumptions (including that Hong Kong is a destination, transit and source territory for men, women and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour) which led to the unfair conclusions. The relatively small number of victims identified attests to the fact that TIP is not prevalent in Hong Kong.”

The annual report released earlier that day said “The Hong Kong Government does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so.”

The new initiatives cited included punishment for unscrupulous employment agencies and the possibility of putting violators behind bars, new guidelines for the government’s anti-trafficking procedures, the investigation of more trafficking cases, and efforts to increase awareness of the rights of foreign domestic workers.

But, the report said Hong Kong did not do enough to “address its policies creating vulnerabilities for foreign domestic workers or conduct public awareness campaigns targeted at preventing sex trafficking”.

In contrast, the Philippines received a positive assessment in the report, which said:

“The Government of the Philippines fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore, the Philippines remained on Tier 1.”

Cited in the report were the “serious and sustained” efforts of the administration in convicting and punishing traffickers, identifying more victims through proactive screening procedures, and expanding its efforts to prevent trafficking of Filipino migrant workers.

But the government was ticked for failing to provide adequate protection and assistance to trafficking victims, particularly mental health care and services for male victims.

Its attention was also called out for not making enough effort to investigate and prosecute officials allegedly involved in trafficking, and for failing to expand its pilot program to address the backlog of trafficking cases in the courts.

Some of the harshest criticism was directed at China, which was cited in the report as among the world’s worst offenders for allowing modern slavery to thrive within its borders.

China was dropped to tier 3 – the lowest in the rankings – this year, along with the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo.

They joined 20 others already in the bottom rung, including Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela.

The report said 20 million people remain in bondage all over the world. Despite this,  prosecutions for various forms of human trafficking, such as sex trafficking, including children, forced and bonded labor; domestic servitude; and the unlawful use of child soldiers — dropped by nearly a quarter between 2015 and 2016, the first time the world had seen such a significant drop in recent years. – DCLM

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