Hong Kong’s human-trafficking problem is focus at conference

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 March, 2016, 12:15am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 March, 2016, 12:15am

Hong Kong’s human-trafficking problems took centre stage at the SAR’s only conference dedicated to addressing the issue, targeting students in the hope of breeding a generation informed of the city’s role in the global business of buying and selling people.

Around 300 people attended the conference held in the International Christian Assembly in North Point, as frontline workers and campaigners shared experiences and information on human-

trafficking and forced labour.

The message was clear – it is close to home, as one of the invited speakers, Mekong Club chief executive officer Matthew Friedman, said that Hong Kong is a transit hub for sex trafficking and forced labour.

“I was surprised about how little people knew about this issue here. Once they do it will be different,” said Friedman.

The conference is part of an initiative, named 852 Freedom Campaign, with an aim to mobilise one million individuals to “play an active role in fighting human slavery by using their skills and abilities to raise awareness, funding and new initiatives”. It was launched in 2014.

READ MORE: Human trafficking in Hong Kong: hidden in plain sight

The government had denied the city’s role in the global trafficking ring, saying in July that there was “no sign or evidence” that Hong Kong was a hub.

But according to the Global Slavery Index by Walk Free in 2014, there were roughly 13,400 people who were in forced labour in Hong Kong, while the city’s government ranked the second last among 27 Asian countries in terms of government response – only ahead of North Korea.

Chinese University nursing student Chow Nga-yin said when she first heard of the issue, it caught her attention: “I’m a girl. When I hear that some girls were raped 10 times a day – it hurts my heart.... it could be me, we’re not so different.”

Chow had since launched campaigns on campus to raise awareness.

Christy Hui Hei-man, a first year City University student, said she came upon human-trafficking when her English tutor showed the movie Nefarious, which is about modern-day slavery.

“I was so shocked. I didn’t know anything about this before... and when I heard that it happens in Hong Kong, it was again very shocking. I’ve always thought of Hong Kong as a safe place.”

Third-year student also from City University, Charles Cheung, said his Christian faith had prompted him to do more, regarding social issues.

“It’s good that we talk about God... but I’ve always thought that there must be more we can do for society,” he said.