Hong Kong lawyer and family go the distance in Angkor Wat for trafficking victims

Patricia Ho is trading in the desk for the running track in Cambodia, raising money for some of society’s most vulnerable

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 December, 2016, 9:29pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 December, 2016, 10:35pm

Patricia Ho, a human rights lawyer at Daly&Associates, is used to being in her Wan Chai office surrounded by piles of statements, letters and court decisions involving human trafficking victims, asylum seekers and others whose rights have been violated.

But today, Ho has left the desk to take part in a 3km family run in Angkor Wat, Cambodia, with her family, and to raise some HK$40,000 for the organisation STOP, which supports human trafficking victims in Hong Kong.

The Angkor Wat International Half Marathon 2016 is a charity race, which includes both professional and amateur runners. The event aims to raise funds for different causes, including land mine victims and underprivileged families in the country.

“It’s a personal priority for me to fight human trafficking in Hong Kong,” Ho, 33, said.

“I want to teach (my children) that we can do something. We should not just read about certain issues in the papers. We want our kids and the people around us to think about action.”

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Her children, aged three and four years old, are still too small to understand the complexity of the cause they will be running for.

“It’s very difficult to explain to children what human trafficking is… They only know that some people are bullied and we are doing this to help them,” she said.

Ho said she would take the opportunity to learn more about the problems in Cambodia – a major hub for human trafficking in Southeast Asia – and compare it to the issues in Hong Kong.

These people are hidden... Donors think ‘why should I donate to something I can’t actually see?
Tina Chan

“Some people asked why we were not donating the money to places like Cambodia or Syria… Many don’t realise that Hong Kong is a huge centre of demand and there is work to be done on all sides,” she said.

Like Ho and her family, about 20 other runners will be raising funds for STOP, an initiative under The Vine Community Services in Hong Kong.

STOP was launched in November 2014, but its four programmes only started in October last year. As of September, they assisted 32 victims by providing food, accommodation, medical support, transportation and free legal advice.

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“We work with sex trafficking and forced labour victims. We provide legal assistance, outreach, we partner with other institutions and individuals and do public education,” project manager Tina Chan said, adding the number of human trafficking victims in Hong Kong was increasing, specifically among domestic helpers.

Chan said sex slaves were more vulnerable and had a harder time coming out and seeking help because they are quite isolated. And funding to combat human trafficking was hard to come by.

“When we go to a public talk, people feel really surprised that there’s human trafficking in a wealthy city like Hong Kong.

“It’s because these people are hidden... Donors think ‘why should I donate to something I can’t actually see?’”