Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

CHINA: Tier 2 Watch List

The People’s Republic of China (China or PRC) is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Instances of trafficking are reported among China’s internal migrant population, estimated to exceed 236 million people, with Chinese men, women, and children subjected to forced labor in brick kilns, coal mines, and factories, some of which operate illegally and take advantage of lax government supervision. Forced begging by adults and children was reported throughout China. There are reports traffickers are increasingly targeting deaf and mute individuals for forced labor. Limited media reports indicate children in some work-study programs supported by local governments and schools are forced to work in factories.

State-sponsored forced labor continues to be an area of significant concern in China. “Re-education through labor” (RTL) was a systematic form of forced labor that had existed in China for decades. The PRC government reportedly profited from this forced labor, which required many detainees to work, often with no remuneration, for up to four years. By some estimates, there had been at least 320 facilities where detained individuals worked in factories or mines, built roads, and made bricks. In 2013, the PRC’s National People’s Congress ratified a decision to abolish RTL. The government closed several RTL facilities by the beginning of April 2014; however, the government converted other RTL facilities into state-sponsored drug detention or “custody and education” centers, and continues to force prisoners to perform manual labor. Some women arrested for prostitution are detained for up to two years without due process in “custody and education” centers and subjected to forced labor—such as making tires, disposable chopsticks, toothpicks, or dog diapers—in at least 116 “custody and education” centers throughout China.

Chinese women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking within China; they are typically recruited from rural areas and taken to urban centers. Well-organized criminal syndicates and local gangs play key roles in the trafficking of Chinese women and girls in China. Victims are recruited with fraudulent employment opportunities and subsequently forced into prostitution. Girls from the Tibet Autonomous Region are reportedly sent to other parts of China and subjected to forced marriage and domestic servitude.

Chinese men, women, and children are also subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking in other countries. Traffickers recruit girls and young women, often from rural areas of China, using a combination of fraudulent job offers and coercion; traffickers impose large travel fees, confiscate passports, confine, or physically and financially threaten victims to compel their engagement in prostitution. Chinese men and women are forced to labor in service sectors, such as restaurants, shops, agriculture, and factories in overseas Chinese communities. Chinese men experience abuse at construction sites, in coal and copper mines, and other extractive industries in Africa, and face conditions indicative of forced labor such as withholding of passports, restrictions on movement, nonpayment of wages, and physical abuse. Chinese children are vulnerable to forced labor in quarries, farms, and construction sites in Angola. Chinese women and girls are subjected to forced prostitution throughout the world, including in major cities, construction sites, remote mining and logging camps, and areas with high concentrations of Chinese migrant workers. African men are exploited on Chinese vessels, working under conditions indicative of forced labor.

Women and children from neighboring Asian countries, including Cambodia, Burma, Vietnam, Laos, Mongolia, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), as well as from Africa, and the Americas, are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking in China. Malagasy women and girls are recruited to work in domestic service in China; some of these women and girls are subjected to forced labor. Zimbabwean women report conditions indicative of labor trafficking bars. North Korean women are subjected to forced labor in the agricultural and domestic service sectors. The Chinese government’s birth limitation policy and a cultural preference for sons create a skewed sex ratio of 117 boys to 100 girls in China, which may serve to increase the demand for prostitution and for foreign women as brides for Chinese men—both of which may be procured by force or coercion. Women and girls are recruited through marriage brokers and transported to China, where some are subjected to forced prostitution or forced labor.

The Government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the year, the government reported convicting at least 35 traffickers, through its publicly available data, and reported cooperating with neighboring countries to repatriate foreign trafficking victims. Despite these efforts, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts to address anti-trafficking compared to the previous year; therefore, PRC is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. The government reported ceasing the RTL system in 2013, but reports indicate the government converted some RTL facilities into different types of detention centers—including state-sponsored drug detention and “custody and education” centers—that continued to employ forced labor. The government arrested a significant number of women and children in police raids on prostitution rings and some of them may have been punished without being properly screened for trafficking indicators. Chinese authorities continued to forcibly repatriate North Korean refugees by treating them as illegal economic migrants—despite reports that many North Korean female refugees in China were trafficking victims.


Update the legal framework to further refine the definitions of trafficking-related crimes in accordance with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol, including by separating out crimes such as abduction, illegal adoption, and smuggling and criminalizing the facilitation of prostitution involving children under the age of 18; end forced labor in state-sponsored drug detention and “custody and education” centers; investigate, prosecute, and impose prison sentences on government officials who facilitate or are complicit in trafficking; expand efforts to institute proactive, formal procedures to systematically identify victims of trafficking—including labor trafficking victims, Chinese victims abroad, and victims among vulnerable groups, such as migrant workers and foreign and local women and children arrested for prostitution; improve procedures to prevent victims from being punished for acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; cease detention, punishment, and forcible repatriation of trafficking victims; expand victim protection services, including comprehensive counseling, medical, reintegration, and other rehabilitative assistance for male and female victims of sex and labor trafficking; provide legal alternatives to foreign victims’ removal to countries where they would face hardship or retribution; increase the transparency of government efforts to combat trafficking and provide disaggregated data on efforts to criminally investigate and prosecute sex and labor trafficking of adults and children; and provide data on the number of criminal investigations and prosecutions of cases identified as involving forced labor, including recruiters and employers who facilitate forced labor and debt bondage, both within China and abroad.


The government did not directly provide data on anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The Chinese criminal code prohibits many forms of trafficking and prescribes harsh penalties. Article 240 of China’s criminal code prohibits “abducting and trafficking of women or children,” which is defined as a series of acts (e.g., abduction, kidnapping, purchasing, selling, sending, receiving) for the purpose of selling the women and children. That article does not apply to men; further, the acts that comprise the crime are not tied to a purpose of exploitation, such as forced labor or forced prostitution, which is how international law defines trafficking in persons. Crimes under Article 240 are punishable by no less than 10 years’ or life imprisonment and the death penalty is possible in particularly serious circumstances. Article 358 prohibits organizing prostitution and forced prostitution, which is punishable by five to 10 years’ imprisonment or, with aggravated circumstances, up to life imprisonment. Article 358 is overly broad in prohibiting both forced prostitution and prostitution. Article 359 makes it a crime to lure girls under the age of 14 into prostitution, but does not criminalize facilitating the prostitution of boys under 18 or girls between the ages of 14 and 18, although two provincial supreme courts have found Articles 358 and 359 to extend to men, women, and children, generally. Prescribed penalties under these statutes are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, including rape. Article 244 of the Chinese criminal code prohibits “forcing workers to labor,” punishable by three to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine, and expands culpability to those who recruit, transport, or assist in “forcing others to labor,” but appears only to criminalize the employer engaged in forced labor, not others who may have recruited, transported, or transferred such workers, which is how the crime of trafficking for the purpose of forced labor is defined in international law. Prescribed penalties under these statutes are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, including rape. It remains unclear whether, under Chinese law, all children under the age of 18 in prostitution are considered victims of trafficking regardless of whether force is involved.

In public data released by the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), officials stated the government arrested 194 alleged traffickers and convicted at least 35 traffickers. Due to limited data and the government’s tendency to conflate human smuggling, child abduction, prostitution, and fraudulent adoptions with trafficking offenses, it is not clear the exact number of trafficking cases the government investigated and prosecuted in accordance with international law. The government made some efforts to cooperate with foreign governments to investigate allegations of trafficking. The government reportedly increased cooperation with neighboring governments in sharing intelligence and collecting evidence on those who are involved in arranging marriages between Chinese nationals and foreign brides; foreign brides are reportedly sold by their parents and some become trafficking victims. The government provided inadequate information on in-house training for law enforcement officials, prosecutors, or judges on human trafficking issues. When PRC authorities participated in trainings with other countries and international organizations, the PRC government provided lodging and meals for some participants. Despite reports of official complicity, including willful negligence in addressing trafficking cases, the government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials for complicity in human trafficking offenses.


The government did not undertake adequate efforts to protect victims and did not directly provide data on the number of victims it identified or assisted or the services provided to victims. Media reported law enforcement and judicial officials continued to expel foreign trafficking victims. The government arrested significant numbers of women in prostitution during police raids; some of these women were detained in “custody and education” centers and subjected to forced labor. In 2011, the MPS mandated all women arrested for prostitution be screened for indicators of trafficking; however, it was unclear if these women were in fact screened or, if screened, if victims were referred to shelters or other care facilities.

The government reported there are shelters dedicated to care for trafficking victims; however, the government did not provide victim protection data to ascertain if trafficking victims in fact accessed these shelters. Foreign embassies reportedly provided shelter or protective services to victims. The impact or effectiveness of the government’s previously reported victim assistance—including border liaison offices, victim funds, hotlines, and government-to-government agreements to assist victims—remained unclear. The government reported trafficking victims who faced hardships in their home country could receive vocational skills training, vocational guidance, and employment services; it remained unclear if any victim benefited from this provision. Chinese law provides victims the right to claim financial compensation by filing civil lawsuits and request criminal prosecution of traffickers; it remained unclear if any victim benefited from this provision in 2014. Media reports noted the government repatriated victims and deported traffickers; the government does not provide any temporary or permanent residence visas to foreign trafficking victims as an incentive to cooperate in trafficking investigations or prosecutions.

Chinese authorities continued to forcibly repatriate some North Korean refugees by treating them as illegal economic migrants, despite reports some North Korean female refugees in China were trafficking victims. The government detained and deported such refugees to North Korea, where they may face severe punishment, even death, including in North Korean forced labor camps. The Chinese government did not provide North Korean trafficking victims with legal alternatives to repatriation. The government continued to bar UNHCR access to North Koreans in northeast China; the lack of access to UNHCR assistance and forced repatriation by Chinese authorities left North Koreans vulnerable to traffickers. Chinese authorities sometimes detained and prosecuted citizens who assisted North Korean refugees and trafficking victims, as well as those who facilitated illegal border crossings.


The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. The government does not report its progress on a yearly basis; therefore it was difficult to track the actions implemented to combat trafficking under its national action plan. Through China’s social media platforms, such as Sina Weibo, the MPS reported using its official microblog to raise awareness of trafficking and receive information from the public regarding suspected trafficking cases; it remained unclear how this effort contributed to the government’s prosecution and protection efforts. During peak traveling periods, the All-China Women’s Federation and MPS continued national anti-trafficking publicity campaigns at train and bus stations, and on national radio—mainly targeting migrant workers. MPS continued to coordinate the anti-trafficking interagency process and lead interagency efforts to engage with foreign counterparts and international organizations in 2014. The All-China Women’s Federation expanded after-school programs that included a curriculum on anti-trafficking after the success of its initial program. Academics noted the gender imbalance, due to the previous one child policy, could contribute to crimes of human trafficking in China. The government’s modification of the birth limitation policy may affect future demands for prostitution and for foreign women as brides for Chinese men.

Several government policies continued to facilitate human trafficking. “Punishment clauses” within the Labor Contract Law allowed Chinese companies to impose steep fines or require substantial deposits from Chinese workers, rendering them vulnerable to forced labor. The government hukou (household registration) system continued to contribute to the vulnerability of internal migrants to trafficking. The government provided anti-trafficking training to Chinese forces participating in peacekeeping initiatives abroad. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel. The government did not report making any efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex or forced labor. Media, however, reported the Guangdong provincial government issued a series of regulations aimed at keeping prostitution out of massage parlors—such as mandating lights be on at all times, removing locks from doors, and keeping logbooks of all clients who come to the massage parlors. Despite reports Chinese nationals engaged in child sex tourism, the government made no efforts to prevent Chinese citizens from engaging in child sex tourism while abroad.