Human Trafficking Abuses Ongoing in China, Says U.S. Ambassador

By Penny Starr | July 11, 2013 | 5:25 PM EDT

State Department Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca testified at a hearing of the House Foreign Affair’s Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations on July 11, 2013. ( Starr)

( – As U.S. officials were praising Chinese leaders at a two-day economic summit in Washington, D.C., the ambassador-at-large at the State Department testified before a House Committee that China’s failure to combat human trafficking led to it having the lowest ranking in the State Department’s annual report on the crime.

“Tier 3 countries are those where the governments are found not to be taking the affirmative steps needed to fight human trafficking, and this year there are 21 countries with that status,” including Communist China, Luis CdeBaca said in his prepared testimony at the Thursday hearing of the House Foreign Affair’s Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations.

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Cdebaca is the ambassador-at-large in the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.  The report, Trafficking in Persons (TIP), is published by the State Department each year and this latest report was released in June.

China joined Russia and Uzbekistan in being downgraded from Tier 2 to Tier 3, according to the report, below the rankings of the Republic of Congo and Iraq and on the same level as North Korea and Iran.

“As a direct consequence of the barbaric one-child per couple policy in effect since 1979, China has become the global magnet for sex traffickers,” Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said at the hearing. “Women and young girls have been and are today still being reduced to commodities and coerced into prostitution.”

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) chaired the hearing of the House Foreign Affair’s Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations on July 11, 2013. ( Starr)

Smith, who wrote the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, which mandated the annual Trafficking in Persons report, called for China to be held accountable for the abuses.

“With this report, we have done right by the millions of trafficking victims in China,” Smith said. “With this report, we are holding China to account for its complicity in profiting off of modern day slavery.”

At the opening session of the U.S. –China Strategic and Economic Dialogue at the State Department on Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry compared China’s global influence with that of the United States.

“There is no question in my mind that long after all of us have finished our turn at these dialogues, long after we have left the public life, China and the United States will continue, throughout this century, to be able to set the example as the two most powerful economies, the two countries with the greatest global reach, and the greatest ability to be able to affect the outcome of  life on this planet,” Kerry said.

In the portion of the TIP report on efforts to curb human trafficking in 186 countries, the abuses in China are starkly described:

• “China is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking,” the report states. “Women and children from neighboring Asian countries, including Burma, Vietnam, Laos, Singapore, Mongolia, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), as well as from Russia, Europe, Africa, and the Americas, are reportedly trafficked to China for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor.”

• “In November 2012, police rescued 11 mentally disabled men from a car wash in Tianjin, where the men had been beaten and not paid,” the report states. “Girls from the Tibet Autonomous Region are reportedly trafficked to other parts of China for domestic servitude and forced marriage.”

Babies rescued from a human trafficking ring uncovered by police in Communist China. (AP)

• “In July 2012, eight girls under the age of 14 were kidnapped and forced into prostitution,” the report states. “Local government officials and businessmen were among the five people arrested for the girls’ commercial sexual exploitation.”

• “The [Chinese] government continued to perpetuate human trafficking in at least 320 state-run institutions—through its ‘re-education through labor’ camps—while helping victims of human trafficking in only seven,” the report states.

At the hearing, CdeBaca said the State Department is now in the process of reviewing the options for sanctions to be put in place in China and other countries that are failing to combat human trafficking. He said recommendations will be made to President Barack Obama and his decision is expected in the fall.

Following the report’s release, John Sifton, Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, said in a June 19 article in the New York Times that China and Russia have been given many opportunities to improve their efforts to combat trafficking, including receiving waivers from being downgraded in the rankings.

“The State Department has demonstrated that it is prepared to sanction even the most powerful countries in the world if they don’t meet the standards set out under U.S. law,” Sifton said “The question for the White House is whether they’re prepared to execute the sanctions.”