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China Human Trafficking Situation
China is a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children who are subjected to trafficking in persons, both within China and abroad. Two major identified trafficking patterns that relate to China are the trafficking of children for illegal adoption, and the trafficking of women and girls for forced marriage. Recent years have witnessed increasing media coverage of trafficking cases for labour and sexual exploitation. Internal trafficking is most pronounced among China’s migrant population, which is estimated to be in excess of 252 million people, around 18.8% of the country’s total population. Chinese migrants tend to be quite young, with an estimated half of all migrants being born in the 1980s, and an average age of around 28. This younger generation of migrants often leave home in search of improved employment opportunities and a better quality of life. For the majority of these migrants, the stability offered in destination areas has improved in recent years, with more than one third of migrants reporting that they have resided in areas of destination for an average of 5 years, and with stable employment for an average of four years. However, migrants in China are still a highly vulnerable population to trafficking, as some have difficulty competing for employment due to the strict residence system, and a lack of education, experience or career training available to workers from poorer rural areas of the country.
Quantifying the scale of the problem and identifying evolving patterns of trafficking remains a challenge due to the scarcity of data. However, one study found 2,653 reported cases from 2010 to 2012. Analysis of these cases indicated that Yunnan, Sichuan, Guangdong and Henan provinces were the main source provinces, while Fujian, Guangdong, Henan and Shangdong were the main destination provinces for trafficking victims. Henan and Guangdong provinces were both source and destination areas for human trafficking. Yunnan and Sichuan are among the provinces with the lowest GDP per capita in China, while Fujian, Guangdong and Shangdong have some of the highest GDP per capita. Another factor to bear in mind when examining these figures is that Guangzhou, Shandong, Henan and Sichuan are the four most densely populated provinces in China.
Research on trafficking in China indicates that 55.5% of trafficking cases involve children, 37.8% women, 3.1% men, the rest 3.5% were unspecified. The various sectors in which Chinese victims were reported being trafficked into are as follows: forced prostitution 37%; illegal adoption 27.9%, forced marriage 19.2%, child labour 5.5%, forced labour 4.5%, forced begging, stealing or busking 4.0 % and organ trafficking 0.8%.
Women were most commonly trafficked for forced prostitution (57.4%) and forced marriage (36.8%) while children were mostly trafficked for illegal adoption (48.0%), forced prostitution (25.1%) and child labour (15.1%). There were 138 cases of children trafficked for forced marriage which amounts to 9.0% of all the cases of child trafficking cases.
Criminal organisations are becoming more centralised, professional and diverse. The Ministry of Public Security recently observed that with the enhanced awareness of human trafficking among vulnerable populations, it is becoming increasingly difficult for traffickers to use deception alone. As a result, they are starting using more violent means, such as direct force and kidnapping, or various other forms of threats and coercion.
Trafficking victim profiles are also diversifying. The proportion of child trafficking among total trafficking cases has been growing since 2001, and a considerable number of young female migrant workers and students have become the target of traffickers. Police case analyses indicate that the range of trafficking victim profiles may be varying in response to the changing purposes of trafficking. In recent years there has been a new trend that includes disabled persons, students and other non-traditional victims of trafficking.
Trafficking has become increasingly complex. Traditionally Chinese trafficking patterns have predominately been for marriage or adoption, yet an increasing number of victims in recent years have been forced into street performance, begging, theft and sexual exploitation. Furthermore, domestic and overseas criminal gangs have been colluding to deceive and traffic women from neighbouring countries (primarily Myanmar and Viet Nam) into China. There has also been a growing trend of organised transnational criminal human trafficking groups targeting Chinese women for forced prostitution abroad. A majority of these women were from poor rural areas in China and were trafficked to Southeast Asia, Europe and Africa.
COMMIT Structure in China
Since the initiation of the COMMIT Process, China’s anti-human trafficking efforts have improved significantly. According to Chinese officials who have been engaged in the process, COMMIT provides an essential platform for the exchange of information and an opportunity for cooperation in anti-Human Trafficking efforts with their counterparts in the other member countries. It not only strengthened China’s capacity to deal with cross-border trafficking by facilitating the signature of a series of bilateral agreements and the establishment of border liaison offices, but also expedited China’s response to domestic trafficking by improving its legal framework.
In 2010, China ratified the Palermo Protocol, and since then has been amending and adjusting its domestic laws and policies accordingly. As a result of the Eighth Amendment to Chinese penal code in 2012, forced labour is more clearly defined as a crime, and the penalties for it have also been increased substantially. In 2013, the newly issued 2nd National Plan of Action broadened the definition of human trafficking to include men, as it previously only pertained to women and children, bringing the Chinese human trafficking definition more in line with the accepted international definition.
Over the past five years, the Chinese government has increasingly shifted its focus from prosecution alone to a more holistic approach to dealing with the trafficking situation. This began with the ratification of the 1st National Plan of Action, establishing a comprehensive coordination mechanism, and placing an emphasis on prevention, prosecution and protection.
At present, the Inter-ministerial Meeting of the State Council maintains responsibility for coordinating China’s anti-trafficking efforts. Each ministry/department carries out their work as defined by the national plan of action. Under the guidance of the central government, provincial and local authorities execute anti-trafficking programmes according to the local context and requirements. The Ministry of Public Security is the lead ministry whose anti-trafficking office is responsible for the implementation of specific counter-trafficking activities.
China COMMIT Milestones
- Inter-Ministerial Meeting 2 / Senior Official Meeting 5
- The Beijing Declaration on Human Trafficking
- 1st National Plan of Action ratified
- China ratified Palermo Protocol
- China-Viet Nam Human Trafficking Memorandum of Understanding signed
- China became official signatory of Palermo Protocol
- China-Myanmar Human Trafficking Memorandum of Understanding signed
- First implementation of the human trafficking Shelter Improvement Project in China
- COMMIT support to the development of the 2nd Chinese National Plan of Action
- Second COMMIT Joint Declaration of the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Human Trafficking
- 2nd National Plan of Action endorsed
COMMIT Ministerial Representatives for China
The Ministry of Public Security is the lead ministerial anti-trafficking office in China and is responsible for coordinating COMMIT.
- Legal Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress
- Ministry of Public Security
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Ministry of Civil Affairs
- Ministry of Labour and Social Security
- Office of National Working Committee for Children and Women of the State Council
- All China’s Women Federation