People for Sale: Human Trafficking and the Modern-Day Slave Industry

                                          IMAGE: SQUARESPACE.COM


Last week marked the start of the Chinese New Year, a time of joy and celebration for the Chinese people. Most people are enjoying the company of friends and family on this happy holiday, but there are some who are spending this time imprisoned, in pain, and secluded from their loved ones. Who are these people? They are the thousands of victims of human trafficking in China.


What exactly is human trafficking? The United Nations defines this crime as, “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.” This definition is technical and confusing, but in short it describes any situation where a person is obtained against their will and exploited. Essentially, it is slavery.


Human trafficking exists in every country in the world and this modern day slavery claims an estimated 27 million victims annually.  What does modern day slavery look like? A recent case in China provides an appalling example of this issue.


On January 21, 2014, Li Hao was executed on charges of holding six women captive against their will. According to news reports, Li imprisoned these six women in a dungeon he constructed and there forced them to perform sexual acts on men for money. Li raped the women numerous times, forced them to perform in pornographic web shows, and most shockingly, coerced three of the women into murdering two of their fellow captives. Some of the women suffered in the dungeon for as long as 21 months. Finally, one of the women escaped and notified authorities about Li’s dungeon. The monstrosity of this crime is unbelievable and raises questions as to how Li got away with his captives for so long.


The U.S Department of State uses a three-tier system to evaluate a country’s efforts to combat human trafficking. Tier 1 represents countries with the most thorough anti-trafficking programs, and Tier 3 represents those countries with minimal anti-trafficking policies. China is currently a Tier 3 country. Over the last ten years, China has gradually fallen from Tier 2 to Tier 3, due to the Chinese government’s inaction on the trafficking issue. As a Tier 3 country, China’s government does not fully comply with the minimum standards set by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and “[is] not making significant efforts to do so.”


Not only is the Chinese government not taking serious action to prevent this crime, it is also participating in the proliferation of trafficking through the One-Child Policy. At least 70,000 young children and babies are kidnapped and trafficked per year and sold to couples who are unable to have a child or to parents who are in need of a son. Additionally, because the One-Child Policy is responsible for creating a gender imbalance in China, there is a higher demand for women as brides and prostitutes. This heightens instances of sex trafficking. The 2013 U.S Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report blames “China’s skewed sex ratio of 118 boys to 100 girls” for “serv[ing] as a key source of demand for the trafficking of foreign women as brides for Chinese men and for forced prostitution.” The One-child Policy is slowly driving up the demand for women, and as this demand rises, so do the crimes of bride abduction, rape, and sex slavery.


Days after Li Hao was executed, another case of sexual exploitation of Chinese women was exposed. Shixin Zhang, owner of Oasis Spa, was arrested and convicted of keeping women in the spa against their will and forcing them to sexually service men. According to victim reports, the women were fed only bread and potatoes, could not leave the spa freely, and were made to perform sexual acts for male customers. This story has similarities to Li Hao’s story, except this instance occurred in Natick, Massachusetts. Thousands of miles from China, in a safe, nondescript town, in a Tier 1 country, Chinese women are being sexually exploited. As shocking as this discovery is, it is tragically common. According to the U.S department of State’s 2013 survey of global trafficking, “Chinese sex trafficking victims were reported on all of the inhabited continents”.


Chinese mothers and daughters are suffering throughout the world because the devil is constantly “on the prowl like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The world is dark, but even in the face of this darkness, there are brave individuals who stand up to address these injustices.


One such individual is Xiao Meili, a young woman who embarked on a mission to walk from Beijing to Guangzhou (a distance of 2,000km) in order to raise awareness for sexual abuse and exploitation in China. Xiao began her walk in September and is still traveling onward, talking to people and mailing letters of advocacy to local officials along the way. So far Xiao has succeeded in attracting attention to her stunt, and is bringing up tough questions about sexual abuse that are not often addressed. This young activist acknowledges that China’s sexual abuse problem is due in part to its gender imbalance. China’s society is male-dominated and Xiao claims that, “this inequality leads to abuse.” As Xiao carries on with her walk, more people are realizing the realities of sexual abuse and exploitation and its link to the demographic problems caused by the One-Child Policy.


Wei Jizhong, who recently passed away from “overworking”, is another wonderful example of anti-trafficking activism in China. Working mainly with children, Wei devoted the past six years to rescuing victims of human trafficking in China. Over the course of these six years, Wei rescued 60 children and received numerous awards for his endeavors. Until his final days, Wei spent all his energy on restoring these children to their families, ignoring his own health concerns until they were too severe for recovery.


Human trafficking is a significant issue that plagues China and nations across the globe. The causes of trafficking are complex, the numbers of victims are staggering, and prevention is difficult. However, God commands us not to despair, but to keep fighting under the power of his Holy Spirit. Like Xiao Meili and Wei Jizhong, we can stand up to these crimes and be a voice for those who are exploited. We have hope because Jesus came to proclaim freedom for the captives and to set the oppressed free (Luke 4:18).


The world is evil, but Jesus says, “Take heart!” for he has overcome the world (John 16:33).


Be a part of God’s effort to end trafficking through partnering with All Girls Allowed! Join us in prayer, give financial support, or join our team to get involved in this exciting work.


by Emilie, All Girls Allowed

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