Secretary of State John Kerry on June 30 released the U.S. Government’s annual assessment of efforts to combat trafficking in persons around the world, the 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report. The Report covers nearly 200 countries and jurisdictions.
The U.S. Congress requires the U.S. State Department annually to assess government efforts around the world to combat trafficking in persons – also known as “modern slavery.” The 2016 Report suggests actions that governments, businesses, and consumers can take to fight trafficking and help the victims regain their lives. Using a four-tier system, it ranks governments on how closely they conform to best practices for combating trafficking in persons. The Report makes clear that no place is immune from the scourge of modern slavery. For instance, it is candid in describing problems in the United States and recommending actions for the U.S. Government.
In this year’s report, Hong Kong‘s ranking changed from Tier 2 to Tier 2 Watch List. Governments listed as Tier 2 do not fully comply with the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to meet those standards. Overall, during the reporting period the Hong Kong Government did not show continued significant progress toward meeting these minimum standards. Specifically, the SAR’s policies are not keeping pace with the evolving international consensus on defining and combating the complex and growing crime of human trafficking. This lack of progress resulted in Hong Kong moving to Tier 2 Watch List. Full explanation of the Tier rankings and methodology can be found in the report at Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
Consul General Hart recently commented on the challenges the SAR faces as it addresses modern slavery: “Hong Kong has a strong rule of law tradition and highly capable disciplined services, with which we enjoy excellent law enforcement cooperation. The issue of modern slavery in Hong Kong is bringing the SAR’s laws up to par with international standards. International anti-trafficking standards have evolved. Standing still is slipping backward in the face of a growing global challenge.”
The Report encourages the Government of Hong Kong to take the initiative in identifying and protecting trafficking victims and vigorously to prosecute traffickers, including employment agencies engaging in debt bondage. The Report notes the continuing importance of amending Hong Kong’s laws to align with the international definition of human trafficking as outlined in the UN Palermo Protocol. The United States looks forward to continuing its close law enforcement cooperation with the Hong Kong Government to fight against trafficking in persons.
The full report is available here: Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons