US Move to Upgrade China in Human Trafficking Ranking Questioned

By Parameswaran Ponnudurai
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Chinese police take away alleged sex workers and clients at an entertainment center in Dongguan, southern China's Guangdong province, Feb. 9, 2014.
Chinese police take away alleged sex workers and clients at an entertainment center in Dongguan, southern China's Guangdong province, Feb. 9, 2014.
Photo: RFA

The U.S. State Department on Friday upgraded China from the lowest ranking in an annual global survey of human trafficking, saying Beijing was making “significant efforts” to comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of the scourge.

But the move was questioned by the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce, who feels that human trafficking remains a major concern in the world’s most populous nation.

The State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons placed China on Tier-2 Watch List—the second lowest rank—after dumping it last year to the Tier-3 blacklist of the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report.

This year's TIP report did not give specific reasons for upgrading China.

But in a general report on the country, it said the Chinese government was ”making significant efforts” to meet basic standards in fighting human trafficking.

“The Government of the People’s Republic of China does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so,” the report said.

It noted that during the reporting period from April 2013 to March this year, China has moved to abolish its controversial "re-education through labor" camp-based punishment system.

Facilities converted

Some media and NGOs indicated that the government released detainees from and ceased operations at many such camps while others believed that some of the facilities have been converted into different types of detention centers, some of which employ forced labor, the report said.

It also said Beijing provided limited information about its investigation, prosecution, and conviction of traffickers.

The government’s conflation of trafficking with other crimes also made it difficult to accurately assess law enforcement efforts to prosecute trafficking offenses, it said.

Similarly, the government did not provide sufficiently detailed data to ascertain the number of victims it had identified or assisted.

Chinese authorities also continued to forcibly repatriate some North Korean refugees by treating them as illegal economic migrants—despite reports that many North Korean female refugees in China are trafficking victims, the report said.

Decision challenged

Royce, a Republican lawmaker, questioned the State Department’s decision to upgrade China in the trafficking ranking.

“We should ask why China's placement on the TIP Report was upgraded from Tier 3 to the Watch List when China continues to fail on the three core areas of protection, prevention, and prosecution,” he said in a statement.

“We know that the system of state-sponsored forced labor continues unchanged and that victims of trafficking from North Korea are routinely sent back to face further abuses,” he said.

Last year’s TIP report, in demoting China to the blacklist, said Beijing did not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking despite being placed on the Tier 2 Watch List for nearly a decade.

The downgrades on China and Russia in 2013 came after U.S. lawmakers accused the State Department of giving special treatment to the major powers when evaluating their human trafficking record in a bid to avoid imposing sanctions on them for strategic or other reasons.

China and several other countries which had been on the Tier-2 Watch List were accused of exploiting a loophole in the U.S. anti-trafficking legislation by pledging last-minute programs to combat human smuggling but failing to follow through year after year.

So Congress passed a law that came into effect in 2008 for an “automatic downgrade” for any country that had been on the Tier 2 Watch List for two years but had not taken significant anti-trafficking measures.

No sanctions

State Department officials said Friday that President Barack Obama had decided against slapping sanctions on China, Russia and Uzbekistan, another country that was demoted to the bottom of the rankings last year.

“[T]he President decided that it was in the U.S. national interest and would promote the purposes of the trafficking law to waive sanctions against them as well as several other countries,” Luis CdeBaca, U.S. ambassador-at-large for human trafficking issues, said at a media briefing.

“And those are countries that we, again, are very much wanting to and feel we can engage with in order to move forward,” he said.

Thailand and Malaysia were among 23 countries to receive the lowest "Tier 3" ranking in the 2014 TIP report.

Incumbents at that level include Iran, North Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Zimbabwe.

The report said the “tens of thousands” of trafficking victims in Thailand were migrants from neighboring countries such as Myanmar, Cambodia,and Laos who were "forced, coerced, or defrauded into labor or exploited in the sex trade."

A significant number were trafficked into the fishing industry, garment production, and domestic work.

The report cited media reports of "trafficking-related complicity by Thai civilian and navy personnel in crimes involving the exploitation" of Rohingya Muslims who have fled Myanmar by the tens of thousands over the past year.

Comments (5)


from San Francisco

This article very laughable. The more laughable is the USA gov't has a little ruler establishing who does what and therefore you are blah blah
come on!! we are not in kindergarten when the teacher used to grade us according to her rules.
So, my questions is who grades USA for killing thousands of people around the world whether it is with those damn drones or the military with their never stop wars around the world.
It is hilarious to hear the republicans repudiate what the white house did because we all know that whatever happens in the world they are the first ones to want to send our troops and go kill some one.
The world is changing and a near future our leaders will be judged by the world just the same as we do now and perhaps ended up in some international court. I am looking forward to that.

Jun 24, 2014 12:02 AM

Anonymous Reader

What's US level, anyway?

Jun 23, 2014 10:44 PM



China classifies North Korean escapees as economic refugees and returns them to almost certain execution, even though China is a party to Articles 33 and 35 of the United Nations Refugee Convention and Article 3 of the United Nations Convention on Torture which forbid deportation back to a country where inhabitants are routinely tortured, imprisoned, and/or executed.

The Obama administration is either completely incompetent or is returning a favor to someone. Maybe both.

Jun 23, 2014 03:44 PM

Xi Cheatpig

"...The U.S. State Department on Friday upgraded China from the lowest ranking in an annual global survey of human trafficking,"
the LOWEST ranking? Yuck! It sucks! Does the US scan the Chinese activities along the borders to Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar? There young girls are kidnapped by Chinese Criminal Pigs (CCP) and sold in China to the PRC (Pigs Rule China)

Jun 22, 2014 07:51 AM

Anonymous Reader

I like to congratulate China on Human Trafficking ranking. Now the Communist Party has more time to work on Human Rights which just dropped 3 levels to near zero.

Jun 20, 2014 10:48 PM

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