US says HK slipping in exploitation fight

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 June, 2009, 12:00am

The US State Department yesterday said Hong Kong was doing worse in combating human-trafficking within its borders.

The department for the first time downgraded the city from tier 1 to tier 2 status in its annual 'Trafficking in Persons Report', which has been mandated by the US Congress since 2001.

'Hong Kong is primarily a transit point for illegal migrants, some of whom are subject to conditions of debt bondage, forced commercial sexual exploitation, forced commercial sexual exploitation, and forced labour,' the report said.

It said some women in Hong Kong's commercial sex trade were believed to be victims of trafficking. Some had been lured under false pretences by crime syndicates or acquaintances and then had their passports confiscated when they arrived, leaving them trapped by debt.

Foreign domestic workers also faced high levels of debt owing to the terms of their employment, it said.

The Hong Kong government did 'not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking' and 'did not investigate, prosecute, or convict any trafficking offenders', the report said.

A government spokesman called the report's criticisms 'unfounded and unfair'.

'We do not see any difference, certainly no deterioration, in the trend of such crimes or the effectiveness of our law enforcement in term of number of arrests, prosecution or convictions,' he said. The government was disappointed that Hong Kong was ranked as tier 2, he said.

The mainland was listed on the tier 2 'watch list' as 'a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purpose of forced labour and sexual exploitation.' If China does not improve its record, it will be moved to tier 3 next year, barring a presidential waiver.