Hong Kong Basic Law

Petitioners urge legislation to outlaw human-trafficking in Hong Kong

Anti-Trafficking Concern Group calls on government to legislate on issue and equip law enforcers and medical staff with ability to identify and help victims

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 July, 2017, 8:01am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 July, 2017, 8:19am

Hong Kong officials were urged to step up the city’s fight against human-trafficking by enacting legislation banning the practice.

The call was made in a petition signed by at least 22 concern groups and scores of legal professionals and lawmakers to be issued on Sunday to mark World Day against Trafficking in Persons.

It also called on the government to equip law enforcers and medical staff with the ability to identify and help victims.

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According to Justice Centre Hong Kong, the city has one of the highest densities of migrant domestic workers in the world who are “uniquely vulnerable” to trafficking, forced labour and sexual exploitation due to blurred work-life boundaries.

The 2016 Global Slavery Index said 29,500 people in Hong Kong were enslaved.

Hong Kong was downgraded in June 2016 to the Tier 2 Watch List on the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report. This is just one rank above the world’s worst human-trafficking offenders.

While Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, and its Bill of Rights highlight the government’s duty to protect the freedoms and rights of people in the city, members of the Anti-Trafficking Concern Group, which launched the petition, said the city lacked legislation criminalising human-trafficking.

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“We do not have any anti-human trafficking law here and no consensus in society on a definition of the practice,” said social worker Phoebe Lamb, who has worked with victims of human-trafficking for over a decade.

The government’s outright denial sweeps the problem under the rug
Patricia Ho, human rights lawyer

Leading human rights lawyer Patricia Ho said the government’s blatant denial of the problem meant traffickers enjoyed impunity even when undeniable evidence of their actions was presented to law enforcers.

“People are being deprived of their privileges and rights,” Ho said. “The government’s outright denial sweeps the problem under the rug.”

In response, the Security Bureau referred the Post to the relevant measures listed on its website and past replies of officials to questions on the issue raised in the Legislative Council.

Then deputy security chief John Lee Ka-chiu, who is now the minister, told the Legislative Council in June that while human-trafficking was not prevalent or widespread in Hong Kong, the government still attached great importance to the problem.

He said the government had put in place a package of effective and comprehensive legislative and administrative measures to combat human-trafficking, including “holistic and humane protection” for victims, various legislative frameworks, training for frontline officers and the publishing of documents explaining “human exploitation cases”.