Sex trafficking in China is human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation and slavery that occurs in the People's Republic of China. China, the world's most populous country, has the second highest number of human trafficking victims in the world. It is a country of origin, destination, and transit for sexually trafficked persons.
Sex trafficking victims in the country are from all ethnic groups in China and foreigners. Chinese citizens, primarily women and girls, have been sex trafficked to the various provinces of China, as well as other countries in Asia and different continents. They have been detected in overseas Chinese expatriate communities. Chinese prostitutes are trafficked overseas, especially in places where there is demand from Chinese male laborers and construction workers. China's internal migrant population, in the hundreds of millions, is particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking. Sex trafficked victims are abducted or deceived and forced into prostitution, marriages, and or pregnancies. They are threatened, physically and psychologically harmed. They contract sexually transmitted diseases from rapes, abuse and starvation are common. Some women and girls die from the poor conditions in captivity or are tortured or murdered.
Sex trafficking and exploitation have permeated all levels of Chinese society. Male and female perpetrators in China come from a wide range of backgrounds and every social class. A number of traffickers are members of facilitated criminal organizations and gangs. Some government officials and workers, as well as foreigners, have profited from sex trafficking in China. Rising incomes in China have spurred increased consumption of many services, both licit and illicit. It has occurred in businesses linked to China's entertainment and tourism industries, as well as heavy industries and the mining sector. Some reporters suggest that the Belt and Road Initiative and globalization have led to an increase in sex trafficking in China. Chinese sex traffickers operate throughout the world. Cybersex trafficking is a growing problem in 21st century China. The global spread of high-speed internet and increase in computer, tablet, and smartphone ownership have fueled online or virtual forced prostitution and sex abuse and the creation of illegal pornographic videos purchased by users worldwide.
The scale of sex trafficking in China is difficult to know because of the lack of primary research and data collection, the clandestine nature of sex trafficking crimes, the fact that only a small minority of cases are reported to the authorities, and other factors. Chinese government ministries, as well as international and domestic agencies and organisations, do some work to combat sex trafficking patterns, but this has not brought substantive improvements and responses have proved insufficient. The enforcement of sex trafficking laws and investigating and prosecuting of trafficking cases have been immobilized by interagency collaboration and coordination challenges, logistical difficulties, poor border management, language barriers of foreign victims, political dynamics, corruption, and apathy. Some Chinese police and officials, as well as overseas embassies and diplomatic missions, have been accused of negligence concerning counter-sex trafficking efforts and concern for victims. Available statistics indicate that China needs to devote greater resources and implement better policies and strategies designed to reduce sex trafficking in the country. It is difficult for trading partners of China to criticize the country's inadequate anti-sex trafficking efforts because of fears of tensions. Chinese civil society's efforts in countering sex trafficking are stymied by threats and coercion from criminal organizations and officials and the government's repression of women and human rights organizations, presses, and lawyers.
Victims of sex trafficking for sexual slavery in China include children, adults, impoverished, migrants, disabled persons, ethnic and religious minorities, foreigners, and overseas Chinese. It is not uncommon for victims of rape to be used additionally as forced laborers in homes, farms, and businesses. They, particularly forced prostitutes, often contract sexually transmitted diseases because the rapers do not use contraceptive methods . Women and girls have contracted HIV. A number of them are verbally and physically abused and beaten, starved, drugged, and sexually tortured. Many sex-trafficked women and girls are never found.
Surviving victims face ostracisation from their families and communities. Some victims are discouraged by family and friends from seeking justice. Some in extreme poverty or suffering from trauma or forced drug addiction because of their captors reluctantly return to prostitution after being rescued. Many mothers who flee or are rescued will never be able to see their children held by the buying family or sold by the traffickers. Some former trafficking victims are reluctant to report traffickers to the local authorities because they fear reprisal from criminals. Some recused victims get abducted and sex trafficked again.
Trafficking survivors may need urgent medical care for problems ranging from injuries due to sexual abuse and torture. They need legal assistance to ensure that the justice system - which too often lets trafficking victims down - is responsive to their needs for accountability and compensation. Many need financial assistance as months and years of sexual slavery resulted in no education and income.
The Chinese government's protection of victims has been criticized: Chinese law enforcement officials have arrested and detained foreign women on suspicion of prostitution crimes without screening them for indicators of sexual exploitation—sometimes for as long as four months, before deporting them for immigration violations. The police have treated the women and girls as violators of immigration law but have taken little action against their traffickers.
There is a need for greater rehabilitative assistance and protection services, including comprehensive counseling and medical reintegration of the victims. In many cases, detained or imprisoned women were beaten by other inmates.
The Chinese government maintains a wide network of shelters across the country, providing food, accommodation, and other services to Chinese citizens facing various kinds of challenges. The system, however, is inexperienced in supporting foreigners in need of help. Anecdotal evidence suggests that non-Chinese women escaping conditions of forced marriage, some pregnant are at times not granted access to shelters and their services. Special support services exist for children, including specialized shelters. Emergency shelters, physical and mental health services, education, job training, financial assistance, and family reunification are available for all groups.
Main article: Women in China
Females are more vulnerable than males because of entrenched misogyny that causes men to view women and girls as inferior and commoditize them. Traditional patriarchal structures reinforce gender inequality, especially in rural areas where females are oftentimes not afforded the same opportunities as males and are forced to submit to male authority. This inequality leaves women and girls increasingly marginalized and vulnerable to sex trafficking.
The one-child policy and preference for sons over daughters have led to a skewed sex ratio in which men outnumber women in China. Consequently, there is an increased demand for trafficked prostitutes and wives in China. 
Children have been targeted by perpetrators. Those from rural areas and migrant students, as well as left-behind children whose parents have migrated to the cities and other countries, have been identified as a vulnerable population to sex trafficking. Children who are illegally adopted are vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
Main article: Poverty in China
Sex traffickers in China often abduct or purchase women and girls from families in poverty or facing financial crisis, particularly the rural poor, because the victims often do not have any political power and connections and lack education about sex trafficking laws, which enables the captors to not attract much attention or publicity.
Main article: Migration in China
The hukou household registration system in China has contributed to the vulnerability of internal migrants by limiting employment opportunities and reducing access to social services, particularly for Chinese victims returning from exploitation abroad.
Main article: Disability in China
Disabled persons, including those with mental illness or who are deaf and mute, have been trafficked in and out of China by perpetrators. Traffickers target adults and children with disabilities whose parents have left them with relatives to migrate to the cities.
Main article: Ethnic minorities in China
Women and girls from minority groups are at an increased risk of sex trafficking because of population displacements and a lack of political representation, power, and protection.
See also: Sex trafficking in Vietnam
Vietnamese women and girls were mass trafficked from Vietnam to China during French colonial rule by Chinese and Vietnamese pirates and agencies. France Captain Louis de Louis de Grandmaison claimed that these Vietnamese women did not want to go back to Vietnam, and they had families in China and were better off in China. Vietnamese women were in demand because of a lower number of Chinese women available in China. Vietnamese women in the Red River delta were taken to China by Chinese recruitment agencies, as well as Vietnamese women who were kidnapped from villages which were raided by Vietnamese and Chinese pirates. The Vietnamese women became wives, prostitutes, or slaves.
Vietnamese women were viewed in China as "inured to hardship, resigned to their fate, and in addition of very gentle character" so they were in demand as concubines and servants. The massive traffick of Tongkinese (North Vietnamese) women to China started in 1875. Southern Chinese ports were the destination of the children and women who were kidnapped by Chinese pirates from the area around Haiphong in Vietnam. Children and pretty women were taken by the pirates in their raids on Vietnamese villages.
Mung, Meo, Thai, and Nung were the minority section of women belonging to Tonkin mountain region who were kidnapped by pirates . The anti-French Can Vuong rebels were the source of the Vietnamese bandits, while former Taiping rebels were the source of the Chinese rebels. These Vietnamese and Chinese pirates fought against the French colonial military and to gain monetary benefit they started trading women.
Brothels in Bangkok bought kidnapped Vietnamese women fleeing South Vietnam after the Vietnam war who were taken by pirates.
Foreign women and girls from Russia, Vietnam, Mongolia, North Korea Myanmar, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, Philippines, Indonesia, and other countries have been trafficked into China for sexual exploitation. They experience difficulties being rescued because they do not speak Chinese and have no identification documents.
The United Nations Human Rights Council 'Report of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea' (February 2014) stated that a number of North Korean women in China were trafficked and sexually exploited. North Korean women's customers (or "husbands") are mostly Chinese men and ethnic Korean-Chinese men. Authorities continue to detain and deport North Korean sexually trafficked victims who may face severe punishment or death upon their repatiration. The majority of North Korean refugees leaving the DPRK are women. The Chinese government's refusal to recognize these women as refugees denies them legal protection and may encourage the trafficking of North Korean women and girls within China. Many children born to Chinese fathers and North Korean mothers remain deprived of basic rights to education and other public services, owing to their lack of legal resident status in China, which constitute violations of the PRC Nationality Law and the convention on the Rights of the Child.
Main article: Overseas Chinese
Chinese women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking in countries throughout the world. Some are deceived into prostitution or confined to private homes where they are raped.
Many Chinese victims sex trafficked into the United States are forced to work in brothels disguised as massage parlors. Money collected by operators is transferred to superiors in China at times.
Chinese women and girls have been sex trafficked to cater to men involved with or working for Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators.
Chinese victims have been sex trafficked to businesses catering to people seeing the Southeast Asian Games and other sports event
Main article: Forced prostitution
Victims are coerced by perpetrators by imposing large travel fees, confiscating passports, confining victims, or are physically and financially threatened to compel their engagement in commercial sex. Victims are deceived by traffickers and brothel operators by answering ads for jobs as models, waitresses, servers, cleaners, and more. Some have been told they could study in universities and educational institutions at low costs only to be sold into prostitution. Some are drugged and abducted. The brothels are often indirect sex establishments, such as beer gardens, massage parlors, salons, karaoke bars, retail spaces, and non-commercial sites. Other locations include construction sites, remote mining and logging camps, and areas with high concentrations of Chinese migrant workers.
Women and girls who are trafficked into brothels are raped by hundreds of men. They are kept under strict surveillance. It is not uncommon for them to be guarded and tied or locked up and never allowed to go outside. Some are beaten and or contract sexually transmitted diseases. Others commit suicide.
There are more males than females in China because of the one-child policy and preference. This may have led to an increase in the demand for prostitution. China's business culture also involves frequenting entertainment venues, some of which have forced prostitutes.
Main article: Cybersex trafficking
A number of sexually trafficked victims in China, including North Korean migrants, are deceived or abducted and coerced into cybersex slavery. Cybersex organization's operators are ethnic Korean-Chinese and North Korean women's customers are Chinese men and South Korean men. They are habitually subjected to penetrative vaginal and anal rape, groping, and forced masturbation live on camera in 'online rape dens.' Gang rape occurs in these dens as well. Victims have been locked up, deprived of sleep, denied food, been forced to perform while sick, and contracted infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis. They are forced to follow the orders or commands of the paying consumers.
Main articles: Forced marriages and Forced pregnancy
Illicit brokers increasingly facilitate the forced and fraudulent marriage, or bride trafficking, of Chinese women and foreigners to men in China and from abroad. These women are sexually exploited in the illegal marriages. The Chinese government's birth limitation policy and the cultural preference for sons have resulted in an uneven sex ratio, contributing substantially to the demand for brides from rural areas and outside of China. Many brokers are connected to matchmaking businesses.
Some female trafficking victims are raped so they become surrogate mothers and bear children. There are testimonies that women and girls have also been injected with sperm. Their children are kept by the captors, the paying husband, or sold to other families. Some husbands let other men, including their relatives, rape their trafficked wife. Some women and girls have been trafficked to entire families of men who are poor and pool their money together to buy one wife. Some women become pregnant unintentionally while being forced prostitutes.
Main article: Industry of China
China's entertainment and tourism industries have developed rapidly with the country's economic growth. Victims are trafficked into businesses, including restaurants, bars, casinos, and nightclubs, linked to these industries.
Women and girls are trafficked to mining sector sites.
Chinese mainlanders are sex trafficked into the special administrative regions of China. Women and girls within these administrative regions are also trafficked to other parts of the city or to mainland cities.
Main article: Sex trafficking in Hong Kong
Mainland Chinese women and girls are sex trafficked into Hong Kong. They are forced into prostitution in brothels, homes, and businesses in the city.
According to the Global Slavery Index, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China has a 'weak response' to modern slavery, including sexual slavery, relative to gross domestic product based on purchasing power parity.
Main article: Sex trafficking in Macau
Mainland Chinese victims are sex trafficked into Macau. They are sex slaves in brothels and hotel rooms near the casinos and other entertainment venues.
See also: Sex trafficking in Mongolia
Chinese and Mongolian women and girls are sex trafficked to and through the China–Mongolia border. At the border and in the Gobi Desert are global mining sector and other heavy industry operations with large workforces of isolated men. These sites, including the ones in Tavan Tolgoi coal deposits, have been a focal point for prostitution and sex trafficking.
See also: List of Chinese criminal organizations, Triad, and Crime in China
Domestic and transnational criminal organizations operating in China are becoming more organized, professional, and diverse. Members of criminal organizations use fraudulent employment offers, threats, direct force, and kidnapping to trafficked victims into sexual exploitation and slavery. Some marriage brokers, matchmakers, mail-order bride service managers, and loan sharks obtain women for criminal organizations. Traffickers frequently take advantage of debt bondage to control their victims. They also threaten families back home to ensure the victims continue to cooperate.
Chinese government officials and businessmen, facilitated by criminal organizations, have been arrested for participating in forcible commercial sexual exploitation. There are government officials who facilitate or are complicit in sex trafficking.
Females perpetrators are sometimes victims of trafficking themselves and are coerced to abduct more women and girls for their captors. Female traffickers can better conceal their identities to the police and win trust from victims more easily compared with their male counterparts.
Family members, relatives, friends, classmates, colleagues, or acquaintances sometimes sell girls to sex traffickers.  The girls' parents or the trafficker may take her to the hospital to get a virginity test.
Some sex traffickers impersonate police officers to gain victims' trust.
Perpetrators are motivated by monetary incentives.
See also: Computer fraud and Internet fraud
Perpetrators in China use the internet, gaming sites, social media, WeChat, Telegram, and other messaging apps to lure victims. Male traffickers often entice females with phony online dating relationships and persuade them to move to a different province or abroad, then subject them to sexual slavery.
See also: Dark figure of crime
The scope of intra-provincial, inter-provincial, and international sex trafficking of women in China is not well understood because of data scarcity. Data collection of sex trafficking crimes in China have been flawed, which has led to incidents not being reported. A criminologist in the People's Public Security University of China stated, “behind every reported sex abuse case, there might be six hidden cases unreported”. Victims might be fearful and or ashamed to report a sex crime. Children and mentally disabled persons might not be aware that such illegal acts has been committed against them. Some brothels with sex trafficked victims operate underground.
See also: Law of the People's Republic of China
Victims were legally entitled to request criminal prosecution and claim financial restitution through civil lawsuits against their traffickers.
China has not signed, ratified, acceded to the convention to Suppress the Slave Trade and Slavery or Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery. It has for the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography
Article 240 of the Chinese Criminal Code criminalized the “abducting and trafficking of women or children.” Article 244 criminalized the forcing of a person “to work by violence, threat or restriction of personal freedom” and recruiting, transporting, or otherwise assisting in forcing others to labor. Article 358 criminalized forced prostitution. Under the provisions of article 296 of the Criminal Code, a person who enslaves another or places him in a position without freedom, similar to slavery, shall be punished with imprisonment for not less than one and not more than seven years. Article 359 criminalized harboring prostitution or seducing or introducing others into prostitution.
The Chinese government maintained insufficient law enforcement efforts of sex trafficking. It has been recommended that China vigorously investigate, prosecute, and impose prison sentences on perpetrators of sex trafficking; update the legal framework concerning the criminalization of sex trafficking, including the facilitation of prostitution involving children younger than the age of 18; expand efforts to institute proactive, formal procedures to systematically identify trafficking victims throughout the country; train front-line officers on their implementation; cease penalization of victims for acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to sex trafficking; ensure authorities do not subject trafficking victims to detention, punishment, or forcible repatriation; increase the transparency of government efforts to combat trafficking and provide disaggregated data on investigations and prosecutions, victim identification, and service provision, including by continuing to share relevant data with international partners.
China has a “National Plan of Action on Combating Trafficking in Women and Children.” The Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Civil Affairs, Supreme People's Court, and All China Women's Federation have issued various joint policies on prosecution, prevention, and victim protection. The Inter-Ministerial Joint Meeting Mechanism (IMJMM) holds annual and thematic meetings as well as information sharing on a monthly basis. Anti-sex trafficking campaigns have been disseminated through television, print media and online platforms. Numerous documentaries and animations have been produced and broadcast to raise awareness among the general public.
Chinese police work in cooperation with consuls to rescue foreign victims in China.
Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking (COMMIT) Task Force (2005), with UN-ACT as secretariat. Chinese law enforcement carries out hotspot policing conducted in high-risk areas and joint border operations conducted with law enforcement counterparts in Vietnam and Myanmar. A team of interpreters for Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) languages has been established to support cross-border case investigations. Thailand offers bounties for the arrest of Chinese traffickers operating in its territory.
An “Operational Guide for Anti-Trafficking Police” has been established and is currently used by police officers.
Several projects have been initiated by the All China Women's Federation (ACWF) to prevent trafficking among migrant populations in various source and destination provinces.
Shelters provide interim care to trafficking victims with managers and staff in most provinces having received training (Ministry of Civil Affairs). An operational guide to assist victims of trafficking has been developed and distributed to all shelters.
See also: Law enforcement in China
Training for police, teachers, social workers, labor inspectors, immigration officials, shelter managers, marriage registration officials, and other government workers has taken place on basic legal frameworks surrounding sexual slavery and victim identification. In conjunction with an international organisation, authorities sponsored and participated in trainings on victim identification and assistance for consular officials and law enforcement, regulation of marriage migration, and interagency implementation of the national referral mechanism. The Ministry of Public Security promulgated written instructions to law enforcement officers throughout the country with the aim of clarifying procedures for identifying victims among individuals in prostitution and those who may be subjected to exploitation via forced or fraudulent marriage. The government reported funding training in rural areas for court officials and prosecutors; however, it did not provide detailed information on these efforts. In addition, law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and judges attended trainings on trafficking organized by other countries and international organizations; when authorities participated in these trainings, the PRC sometimes provided speakers and venues, and funded lodging, transportation, and meals for some participants. The office to combat trafficking in persons developed and approved trafficking victim identification procedures and disseminated them to law enforcement officials throughout the country. The government acknowledged that victim identification procedures varied according to local officials' training and understanding of trafficking; this variation increased the risk that unidentified trafficking victims were detained and deported following arrest for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking.
Public education about sex crimes in China exists but is insufficient. Many Chinese children receive little information about sexual offences and have a weak awareness or capability to protect themselves from such offences.
China's highest-rated television channel ran broadcasts raising awareness on trafficking. The government disseminates some anti-trafficking messages in train and bus stations and through media such as cell phones, television, and the internet. Through China's social media platforms, such as Sina Weibo, the Ministry of Public Security reported using its official microblog to raise awareness of trafficking and receive information from the public regarding suspected trafficking cases. In 2018, the Ministry of Public Security reportedly sent 350,000 police officers to public schools to educate children about the risks of exploitation. Article highlights announcement of rescued children on Weibo, a popular Chinese microblogging platform, accompanied by photos of them. At the end of the article, tips and reminders are provided for readers on what to do if they suspect any instance of child trafficking or abduction. A link is also provided to the National Abduction and Family Search Platform, which acts as a directory for abducted and trafficked children.
The two Women's Federations and the Publicity Department focus on raising awareness and provide assistance with victim support. They run annual campaigns that focus on school curricula, television ads, and transportation hubs, especially around the time of the Spring Festival.
Some other outlets that women and other vulnerable groups can go to for self-expression and protection include the National Working Committee on Children and Women (NWCCW), which is an institution that works under the State Council to guide the Chinese government on providing important human, financial, and material aid for the development of women and children. The NWCCW also works closely with local government leaders to urge them to perform their duties and maintain support for groups that do not usually get much representation. A few non-governmental outlets have also risen to power and play an essential role in developing women's rights. The All-China Federation of Trade Unions, the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF), the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League, and the China Disabled Persons’ Federation have all focused on gender equality work. And while each group has their own distinct advantages and disadvantages, they are all united under the same goal of motivating women to participate in the country's social development.
Government websites provide a list of relevant agencies and departments and their hotlines. Several of the most popular apps in China have the additional function of helping locate missing persons through localized push notifications. Scores of specialist apps for registering family members young and old or reporting suspected child trafficking have also been appearing in the country's app stores. The free, 24/7 dial 110 nationwide police calling system allows victims or witnesses to obtain assistance from the police.
According to Human Rights Watch, Chinese law enforcement officers in certain jurisdictions make little effort to save sex trafficking victims.
There has not been an increase in public reports of sexual slavery cases in recent years. The Ministry of Public Security has not reported the number of investigations initiated into possible trafficking cases.
The reporting mechanisms (websites, hotline, etc.) do operate in multiple languages.
Training for first responders of trafficking crimes is not delivered systematically and at regular intervals. Reports suggest that screening procedures exist, but it is unclear if these have been distributed to all first responders or concern both victim screening and identification. 
Main article: Corruption in China
Some government officials and police have been complicit in sex trafficking. Some police have demanded bribes in order to return victims to their families. Chinese border guards have also been accused of collusion with traffickers.
Main article: Human rights in China
The Chinese government's human rights violations have hampered anti-sex trafficking initiatives. Sustained attacks on organizations and lawyers have resulted in victims not being able to seek justice.
There are civil society organizations working to rescue women, but these organizations have limited resources.
Christian organizations save sex trafficked victims in China.
Agape International Missions and Blue Dragon Children's Foundation save victims of sex trafficking in China.
The Korea Future Initiative is a London-based organization that obtains evidence and publicizes violations of human rights, including the sex and cybersex trafficking of North Korean women and girls in China.
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