Last Updated: Friday, 28 November 2014, 10:33 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Hong Kong

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Hong Kong, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30cc3c.html [accessed 28 November 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

HONG KONG (Tier 2)

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of the People's Republic of China is a source, destination, and transit territory for men, women, and teenage girls from Hong Kong, mainland China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Nepal, Cambodia, and elsewhere in Southeast Asia, subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Some migrants are lured to Hong Kong by criminal syndicates or acquaintances with promises of financial rewards and are deceived about the nature of prospective work. Upon arrival in Hong Kong, these migrants are forced into prostitution to repay money owed for their passage to Hong Kong. According to an NGO and press reports, some victims of sex trafficking have been psychologically coerced into prostitution by trafficking offenders who threaten to reveal photos or recordings of the victims' sexual encounters. Some foreign domestic workers in the territory, particularly those from Indonesia and the Philippines, face notable indebtedness assumed in their home countries as part of the terms of job placement, which have the potential to lead to situations of debt bondage. Foreign domestic workers from the Philippines and Indonesia are generally charged the equivalent of $1,950 and $2,725, respectively, by recruiters in their home countries. These debts may comprise more than 80 percent of workers' salaries for the first seven to eight months of employment. During that period, some workers may be unwilling to report abusive employers for fear of losing their jobs. Several of Hong Kong's domestic worker employment agencies have charged fees in excess of Hong Kong law and illegally withheld passports, employment contracts, and bank debit cards of domestic workers until their debt has been paid – factors that could facilitate labor trafficking in the territory.

The authorities of Hong Kong does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The authorities made no discernible progress over previous years in law enforcement efforts against sex trafficking or forced labor; it secured six sex trafficking convictions and no forced labor convictions. The authorities identified 12 trafficking victims during the reporting period, and while it trained law enforcement on investigating trafficking, the continued lack of a single, comprehensive law to prohibit all forms of trafficking and protect victims impeded results.

Recommendations for Hong Kong: Enact a stringent, comprehensive anti-trafficking law that prohibits all forms of trafficking and defines terms according to established international standards as set forth in the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; ensure adequate procedures are in place to guide officials in proactively identifying forced labor and sex trafficking victims among vulnerable populations and referring them to available services; grant victims permission to work and study while participating in trafficking investigations and prosecutions; develop a national action plan to commit resources and develop a clear, overarching strategy to combat trafficking; convene regular meetings of the Security Bureau and other agencies comprising the anti-trafficking working group to more proactively develop efforts to combat trafficking; continue to publicize the availability of these protective service resources among vulnerable populations, such as foreign domestic workers; and educate law enforcement, judges, authority officials, and the public on trafficking definitions in line with established international standards.

Prosecution

Hong Kong authorities made no discernible progress in their anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Hong Kong authorities' continued outdated interpretation of trafficking as a phenomenon of movement for prostitution and the lack of a specific criminal prohibition on forced labor hindered anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Inconsistent with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol's definition of human trafficking, Section 129 of the Crimes Ordinance, which prohibits "trafficking in persons to or from Hong Kong," requires an element of transnationality in the offense and focuses on movement of persons into or out of Hong Kong for prostitution regardless of whether force, fraud, or coercion has been used. Section 129's prescribed penalty of 10 years' imprisonment is sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Other sections of Hong Kong's Immigration Ordinance, Crimes Ordinance, and Employment Ordinance, however, were used to prosecute trafficking offenses during the reporting period. During the year, Hong Kong authorities reported the conviction of six offenders under Crimes Ordinance Section 130 – which prohibits forced prostitution but no convictions of forced labor. The authorities did not report any investigations, arrests, prosecutions, or convictions of authority officials complicit in trafficking offenses. While the authorities provided training to 300 police officers during the reporting period on conducting anti-trafficking investigations, such training was limited by Hong Kong's outdated anti-trafficking laws.

Protection

The Hong Kong authorities continued its efforts to protect trafficking victims during the reporting period by identifying 12 sex trafficking victims. The Hong Kong authorities continued its outreach within the foreign domestic worker community to identify victims of forced labor or sexual abuse, but the authorities did not identify any victims of forced labor during the reporting period. A local NGO and consulate identified one victim of forced labor who remained jailed at the end of the reporting period for immigration and labor violations. Law enforcement and social services officials reportedly followed systematic procedures in identifying the full range of potential trafficking victims, particularly among high-risk populations such as foreigners arrested for prostitution or immigration violations, although the low number of trafficking victims identified by the authorities and the imprisonment of a forced labor victim raised concerns about the effectiveness of these procedures. The authorities subsidized six NGO-run shelters and three authority-owned and operated shelters that serve victims of abuse, violence, exploitation, and trafficking. These shelters provided temporary free accommodations, counseling, and access to public hospital services to the 12 identified victims during the reporting period. Services were available for local and foreign men and women, as well as children. The authorities claimed that it encouraged victims to participate in the investigation and prosecution process; however, the authorities did not permit victims to work while remaining in Hong Kong to participate in trials, and Hong Kong does not specifically allow for permanent residency status for cases in which repatriation may constitute a risk of hardship or retribution. While victims have the ability to file civil charges for compensation against their traffickers, there were no such cases in which this occurred.

Prevention

Hong Kong continued efforts to prevent trafficking in persons during the reporting period. In February 2011, a Hong Kong immigration officer participated in the Indonesian consulate's monthly orientation program for new foreign domestic workers and educated the workers on their rights under Hong Kong law. The Labor Department organized a number of seminars for foreign domestic worker employment agencies on regulations those agencies must follow, including penalties for withholding travel documents and underpaying wages. Hong Kong authorities continued to disburse anti-trafficking pamphlets in six different languages aimed at educating the public on trafficking issues. The Labor Department also widely distributed information packets for foreign domestic workers in eight different languages discussing ways to prevent and report human trafficking. The authorities continued to provide new foreign domestic workers arriving at the airport with information on preventing trafficking, which was available in multiple languages. The Security Bureau coordinated Hong Kong's anti-trafficking efforts through leadership of a working group that involved several other agencies; the working group met one time during the reporting period. Hong Kong authorities reported no efforts to prevent or combat child sex tourism. Hong Kong is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

Search Refworld