Tibet Battles Women Trafficking

A Chinese police document shows efforts made to rescue victims.
2012-08-24
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A Tibetan woman walks on a street in Chengdu in southwest China's Sichuan province, Jan. 26, 2012
AFP

Chinese authorities recorded a big jump in the trafficking of women and children from Tibet to Chinese provinces last year as an expert said that more than half of the 72 counties in the Tibet Autonomous Region have grappled with women-smuggling problems.

Complaints of trafficking in women and children jumped to 37 in 2011 from 12 the year before, with three in 2009 and 13 in 2008, according to statistics fleshed out from a police report obtained by RFA’s Tibetan service.

There were only four complaints reported so far this year.

Seventy traffickers were also arrested during the 2008-2012 period, according to the report, which suggested that individual complaints may involve several victims.

Since 2008, nearly 100 women and children were trafficked into Chinese provinces from Tibet as “brides” or household servants, with 38 young women and a child smuggled in 2011 alone, according to the report.

The report, titled “Some Thoughts on Crimes Involving the Kidnapping and Trafficking of Women and Children,” was distributed as an internal memo by the Tibetan capital Lhasa’s Public Security Bureau.

The memo is undated but includes references to cases reported from 2008 up to and including 2012.

It also cites 85 cases of trafficked persons being recovered by police and returned to their homes.

Betrayals of trust

Common methods used to entrap trafficking victims outlined in the report included promises of jobs or offers of help in finding boyfriends, and betrayals of trust by men with whom the victims had formed intimate relationships.

In other cases, women were drugged before being taken from their homes and sold, the report said.

Most of the victims came from rural areas of Tibet, and are described in the police report as “illiterates” and “school dropouts.”

During the 2008-2012 period covered by the report, Lhasa police working with county-level district crime investigation units confirmed 67 cases of trafficking out of 69 complaints received.

Twenty groups of traffickers were identified, and 70 individual traffickers were arrested, of whom 66 were directly involved in the trafficking, the report said.

Modern-day slaves

Speaking separately to RFA, Office of Tibet in Taiwan researcher Sonam Dorjee said that 45 out of 72 counties in the Tibet Autonomous Region have reported cases of Tibetan women being trafficked into China.

Counties and subdistricts in the areas of Lhasa, Shigatse, and Damshung have reported the greatest numbers of these cases, he said.

“At first, Chinese workers who came to Shigatse married Tibetan girls and took them back to China against their parents’ wishes,” Dorjee said.

Later, these brides lured other Tibetan women from rural areas to come into China, enticing them with promises of jobs and a better life, he said.

“Chinese men from Qinghai [province] have also formed relationships with gullible Tibetan women and have taken them with them after paying a meager amount of money to their parents,” Dorjee said.

“Once in China, these women are forced into servitude and abused, serving as modern-day slaves," he said.

"Of those who were initially taken to be the domestic helpers and ‘brides’ of elderly Chinese men with handicapped children, many ended up in brothels later on."

In its Trafficking in Persons Report for 2012, the U.S. State Department said that the Chinese government “does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.”

The report placed China on its Tier 2 Watch List among countries which do not fully comply with minimum standards to protect trafficking victims but are making “significant efforts” to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.

Reported by RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.