People cross a road in Causeway Bay district in Hong Kong, Feb 21, 2022. (PHOTO / XINHUA)
HONG KONG – The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government on Wednesday vehemently objected to “the biased and unfair” assessment of Hong Kong in US State Department’s annual report on human trafficking.
In a statement, a spokesman for the HKSAR government said the United States Trafficking in Persons Report 2022's rating of Hong Kong as among the regions and countries in its Tier-2 Watch List was “unfair and not substantiated by facts."
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“The HKSAR government has all along been making proactive and multi-pronged efforts in the fight against TIP,” the HKSAR government spokesman was quoted in the statement as saying.
It is baseless and unfair to cast doubt on the quality of our screenings and discredit our screening procedure merely because of the low number of victims so identified.
Spokesman, HKSAR government
The spokesman said trafficking in persons is never a prevalent problem in Hong Kong. Despite the intensified screening efforts, only a handful of TIP victims were identified.
“The very small number and percentage of victims identified thus far has once again reinforced our observation that TIP is never a prevalent problem in Hong Kong,” the spokesman said.
The spokesman noted that in 2021, the number of initial screenings conducted by the various departments was around 7,700, a three-fold increase when compared with the number conducted in 2016. Only one victim was identified in the screenings conducted by the Hong Kong Police Force, Customs and Excise Department, Immigration Department and the Labour Department.
In 2020, three victims were identified from the 6,900 initial screening conducted.
“It is baseless and unfair to cast doubt on the quality of our screenings and discredit our screening procedure merely because of the low number of victims so identified,” the spokesman said.
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The spokesman added that the government had sustained its anti-trafficking efforts despite the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years.
“In particular, coverage of the initial screening of TIP victims has been fully extended since end 2019 to cover all cases involving persons vulnerable to TIP risks, including illegal immigrants, sex workers, illegal workers, FDHs and imported workers,” the spokesman said.
Since 2018, the HKSAR government had gone an extra mile in setting up a high-level steering committee to steer policy on actions against TIP and protect foreign domestic helpers, according to the statement.
The spokesman also rejected the annual report’s claim about the lack of a composite trafficking legislation in Hong Kong, saying its multi-legislation approach has proven to be effective.