Trafficking in China

Two months ago, I gave a presentation on human trafficking in South East Asia. This was the first time I had presented on the issue in China, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. The audience was largely young professionals- some expats, some local Chinese– with some university students as well.

Everything went well and people were largely astonished to discover that trafficking is NOT just sex trafficking. My presentation was more of an information sharing and story telling session and so people were happily asking questions.

One woman, a Chinese in her mid to late 20s, sat in front of me and was silent for the most part. She showed no emotion and there were no telling signs of whether she understood what I was saying. However, near midway of my presentation, she started nodding away at what I was saying. Good sign- it seemed I was making sense.

However, near the end of the presentation, she grew rather agitated. Later, when talking to her boyfriend, I discovered that she found the session to be very informative BUT when it came to my discussions about trafficking in China, she disagreed with me in every way possible. In her mind, trafficking does not exist in China. Not at all. I am no expert on trafficking in China, but safe to assume that trafficking happens everywhere and anywhere. Even little old New Zealand and Muslim Malaysia. Her reaction is not typical to every Chinese I’ve met, but it certainly was the strongest response I’ve seen so far.

In China, human trafficking and people smuggling statistics are collapsed into one figure. This is problematic as people smuggling involves voluntary and involuntary movement (ie boat people travelling to Australia) so obviously it will be hard to determine from the statistics the true extent of trafficking in the country. However, the Chinese state appears to be making some progress in clamping down on trafficking rings. This week marks at least 2 big trafficking ring busts in China (see related articles below).

While I am more familiar of trafficking OUT of China from Yunnan to Burma, Thailand etc, it isn’t so often that you read of trafficking within the country. There has been many educated explanations for why trafficking within and into China is growing. Common explanations include the one-child policy for urban areas (outer regions have a higher limit) and the preferencing of boy child over girl child. Unfortunately there has been no large scale study into the reasons why trafficking is taking place. China’s 12th Five year plan that started this year (2011-2015) has a greater emphasis on social development, so perhaps the time will come one day where more opportunities will open up for greater examination into the causes of trafficking in China.

In the meantime, lets celebrate the wins of the week- the rescuing of children from bondage and slavery! Go China!

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