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China and Russia blast US criticism on human trafficking

Findings could trigger sanctions by Washington

Gulf News

Beijing: China and Russia on Thursday attacked a United States government report that accused them of failing to do enough to combat human trafficking, a finding that could trigger sanctions by Washington.

“We believe that the US side should take an objective and impartial view of China’s efforts [in fighting human trafficking] and stop making unilateral or arbitrary judgements of China,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular briefing in Beijing. “The Chinese government always attaches great importance to fighting all crimes of trafficking.”

Moscow was also furious at the US report, which it decried as politically motivated.

“As far as the application of unilateral sanctions against Russia is concerned... the very idea of raising this issue causes indignation,” the foreign ministry’s human rights envoy Konstantin Dolgov said in a statement.

The US is often at odds with China and Russia — geopolitical heavyweights which along with Washington are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — on human-rights issues.

They cooperate in some areas, such as pressuring North Korea to give up nuclear weapons. But in others, such as the Syrian civil war, Beijing and Moscow have been at defiant odds with Washington.

The US State Department on Wednesday downgraded the two countries, as well as Uzbekistan, to the bottom of a table on human trafficking.

The three nations had languished for years on the ‘Tier 2 Watch List’, having been granted past waivers amid promises to do better.

But under the terms of a 2008 law, they could no longer stay on the watch list and either had to move up a level or be downgraded. The new report took the latter step, which could now trigger cuts in non-humanitarian and non-trade US aid.

President Barack Obama will determine whether to enact any sanctions against the three nations in September.

The report found that “trafficking is pronounced among China’s internal migrant population” and “forced labour remains a problem, including in brick kilns, coal mines and factories”.

China’s one-child policy has resulted in “a skewed sex ratio of 118 boys to 100 girls in China, which served as a key source of demand for the trafficking of foreign women as brides for Chinese men and for forced prostitution”.

Beijing had failed to “demonstrate significant efforts to comprehensively prohibit and punish all forms of trafficking”, the report maintained.

Congressman Chris Smith, who has authored key legislation on trafficking, said China has become the “sex and labour trafficking capital of the world”.

“Women and young girls have been — and are today being — reduced to commodities and coerced into prostitution,” the Republican said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Nigerian police raided a home and freed 16 pregnant young women who were allegedly being forced to have babies to be offered for sale for trafficking or other purposes, police said Thursday.

They said they arrested the man suspected of running the home, adding that he was arrested on similar accusations two years ago but it was unclear what happened to the previous case or why he had been freed.

“The operation was carried out by the DSS where 16 expectant mothers, aged between 17 and 37, were found,” Abia state police spokesman Geofrey Ogbonna told AFP.

The DSS is the Department of State Services, a domestic intelligence and police force.

He said the raid on Cross Foundation in the southern city of Aba was carried out on Tuesday and the proprietor, Hyacinth Ndudim Orikara, had been arrested.

“The suspect is a serial human trafficker,” he said. “He claims to be a medical doctor. I could recall that the same man was arrested in May 2011 and 32 teenage girls were rescued from his home.”

He said the girls confessed that they had been offered to sell their babies for between 25,000 and 30,000 naira (around Dh735), depending on the sex of the baby.

Ogbonna said the previous incident had been referred to the state-run agency fighting human trafficking, the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons.

“I don’t know what became of the matter and now he has been arrested again for the same offence,” he said.