The 2017 edition of the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report from the US State Department lists China as one of the worst human trafficking offenders in the world, on the same tier as countries like Syria, North Korea, Russia and Iran.
The report sorts countries into three tiers, with Tier 3 being the worst and Tier 1 the best, based on how well the government acknowledges and deals with human trafficking problems in its country.
This year, the report states that China “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so; therefore, China was downgraded to Tier 3.” That places the world superpower into the same category as countries like North Korea and Syria whose regimes are known for neglecting human rights.
The State Department calls the TIP report “the world’s most comprehensive resource of governmental anti-human trafficking efforts.” Countries are sorted based on the standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Tier 1 countries have recognized their human trafficking problems and taken measures in order to meet the minimum standards of the act. Tier 2 countries are making an effort to combat trafficking, but have failed to meet the standards. Usually, if a country stays on the Tier 2 list for two years that country gets automatically shifted to Tier 3.
China has been a Tier 2 country for the past three years (it was Tier 3 in 2013). Last year, the State Department granted the country a waiver for showing some improvement, but this year Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was not so forgiving.
Tillerson listed many reasons for China’s downgrade, explaining that the Chinese government “has not taken serious steps to end its own complicity in trafficking, including forced laborers from North Korea that are located in China.”
The report listed a host of different types of trafficking prevalent in China, including forced labor (particularly of North Koreans), forced begging, sex trafficking and trafficking of people from outside countries into China.
The report admits that China, “took some steps” to address these issues but called for it to make stronger efforts towards eliminating human trafficking. “It is our hope that the 21st century will be the last century of human trafficking, and that’s what we are all committed to,” Tillerson said.
Details of the report leaked to the press on Monday, giving China time to release a statement defending itself against the downgrade.
“China firmly opposes the US’ irresponsible remarks on other countries’ fight against human trafficking, based on its domestic laws,” said Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Lu Kang at a regular press conference.
Washington’s open criticism of China comes as a bit of a surprise following months of friendly relations between President Trump and President Xi. Vox notes that the State Department could have simply granted China another waiver.
But this isn’t the first sign that Trump may be finished keeping peace with China. A week ago, he tweeted that efforts to work with China on North Korea had “not worked out.” This week, his buddy-buddy meetings with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Washington have caused many to speculate that the Trump-Xi honeymoon may be coming to a predictable end.
By Caroline Roy
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