A government spokesman has rejected Hong Kong’s Tier 2 ranking in the US Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report 2015, which indicates a failure to meet minimum standards.
It is the seventh year that the city has been listed as a Tier 2 region.
Released on Monday, the report said Hong Kong was “a destination, transit, and source territory for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour.”
The report continued: “The government of Hong Kong does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.” However, it acknowledged the city had made “significant efforts”.
A government spokesperson said on Monday that the report failed to reflect the “unfailing commitment and continuous efforts” of the Hong Kong authorities in combatting human trafficking. Specifically, the government rejected descriptions of the city as a place for sex slavery and unfree labour.
Whilst the city was classified as a Tier 2 region, the report commended the government for convicting Indonesian domestic worker Erwiana Sulistyaningsih’s abusive former employer. Law Wan-tung, 44, was sentenced to six years imprisonment last February for physically abusing Erwiana.
Patricia Ho of human rights law firm Daly & Associates told HKFP that the government’s response is in contrast to the internationally accepted interpretation of human trafficking.
“It is solely disappointing that they are denying the existence of the issue,” Ho said. She added that the government fails to acknowledge the problem as there is currently no offence related to human trafficking in Hong Kong.
“It is almost like the attitude of an ostrich – pretending that it [human trafficking] doesn’t exist,” she said.
Victoria Wisniewski Otero, Acting Director of External Relations of non-profit human rights organisation Justice Centre Hong Kong said that progress has been “abysmal”.
She said: “It is high time that the Hong Kong government did more to address human trafficking concerns and graduate out of the Tier 2 ranking”.
Mainland China is also featured on the report’s Tier 2 Watch List, reflecting a significant increase in victims of human trafficking or a failure to combat trafficking over the previous year.
The report highlighted concerns regarding state-sponsored forced labour. “The PRC government reportedly profited from this forced labour, which required many detainees to work, often with no remuneration,” it said.
The 2015 report evaluated 188 countries and regions according to their government’s efforts in abiding with minimum requirements set out by Laws on Trafficking in Persons.