It is “far from surprising” to see Hong Kong being ranked alongside North Korea, Iran and Eritrea when it comes to tackling modern slavery, according to a statement released by NGO Justice Centre Hong Kong on Wednesday.

The 2016 Global Slavery Index published on Tuesday ranked Hong Kong 157 out of 161 countries in terms of the government response to modern-day slavery. The study measures the prevalence of issues related to modern slavery and state responses according to information from 167 countries.

slavery index
Photo: Walk Free.

“The ranking is even more shocking when you look at Hong Kong’s GDP when compared with other countries higher up on the list,” Executive Director of Justice Centre Piya Muqit said. “Unfortunately as an organisation this doesn’t surprise us.”

In March 2016, a Justice Centre report found that one in six domestic workers in Hong Kong are forced into labour while only 5.4 per cent show no signs of exploitation.

foreign domestic workers march
Photo: Adrian Lo.

Muqit criticised the Hong Kong government for not having comprehensive legislation or policies to tackle forced labour or trafficking.

“The government continually denies that the territory is a source, destination or transit area for human trafficking and forced labour,” he added.

The report included Iran, Hong Kong and China as countries with the weakest action.

slavery index
Photo: Walk Free.

The Global Slavery Index 2016 was published by the Walk Free Foundation, a group set up by philanthropist Andrew Forrest, an Australian billionaire mining magnate, in 2012. It tracks government action on the problems of forced labour, human trafficking, debt bondage, commercial sexual exploitation and forced marriage, which the report said define modern slavery.

Koel Chu is a second-year journalism and fine arts student at the University of Hong Kong. Born and raised in Hong Kong, Koel is interested in the arts and urban design. She interned at China Radio International in Beijing and, at her university, she also works as Vice-President of Branding and Marketing in AIESEC, the largest youth-run organisation in the world.