Pakistan arrested at least eight Chinese nationals for allegedly luring young Pakistani girls into fake marriages then forcing them into prostitution in China, authorities confirmed to AFP Tuesday.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) said four Pakistanis who helped to facilitate the fake marriages were also arrested. A spokesman for the body said it expects more detentions as the investigation continues.

Human Rights Watch raised the alarm over “bride” trafficking from Pakistan to China in a report last month, where it said Islamabad should be “alarmed” at the reports.

It warned they are “disturbingly similar to the pattern of trafficking of ‘brides’ to China from at least five other Asian countries”.

Tens of thousands of young women from Southeast Asian countries such as Myanmar and Vietnam marry Chinese men each year, plugging a gender gap incubated by Beijing’s three-decade-long one-child policy.

Last month a Pakistani news channel spotlighted growing concerns about the issue in Pakistan, claiming it had gained entry to a matchmaking centre in Lahore where poor families would marry their daughters off to Chinese nationals in exchange for money and a visa.

“China is cooperating with Pakistani law enforcement agencies to crack down on illegal matchmaking centres. We remind both Chinese and Pakistani citizens to remain vigilant and not be cheated,” the Chinese embassy in Islamabad said.

Pakistan does not meet the “minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so”, the US State Department says on its website.

Other than the trafficking of women to China, Pakistan also grapples with the trafficking of children to Middle Eastern countries, particularly the UAE, to serve as camel jockeys.

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