The 56th issue of Zi Teng Newsletter
Every year the US Department of State releases the Trafficking in Persons Report. This year, Hong Kong is downgraded from Tier 2 to Tier 2 Watch. According to the report, Hong Kong is the destination, mid-stop and source of both forced labor and prostitution. The law enforcement departments are criticized for not putting enough efforts in combating human trafficking. They also fail to provide adequate support for the trafficked victims.

Not only the US, EC (European Commission) also released a human trafficking report several months ago, which revealed that more than 15,000 trafficked victims were tracked during the year of 2013 and 2014, Among these victims, two-thirds are forced into prostitution.

This kind of report often stresses on the number of the trafficked victims. Yet, when we see trafficked victims from the viewpoint of our working experiences, who are the trafficked victims?

Pat (pseudonym) is from Thailand. She was a teacher when she was in Thailand. Yet, as she could not earn much as a teacher, she changed to work as a massage worker. She also worked in Malaysia but she also failed to earn much money. Later, she was introduced by her friend to come to work in Hong Kong.

When Pat arrived Hong Kong, she first worked in the one woman brothel in one district, but she only provided massage services. Pat had to work continuously for 13 hours a day. Her boss not only did not let her rest, even though there was not any client, Pat still had to do the cleaning. Pat did not have any personal space. She was also not allowed to go outside. She had to work every day from 2pm to 3 am. She could not stop working unless she had provided services for 8 to 9 clients, and she later realized she could only gain HKD3000 for 10 days. Pat was not happy there, her boss hence introduced her to work in an foot massage parlor in another district.

At the first beginning, Pat did not feel very comfortable to work in the foot massage parlor as she had to provide sexual service. She used to work alone in the one woman brothel, but she had to work with several Chinese women here. The boss of the foot massage parlor treated her well. She did not need to clean the massage parlor, neither did she need to work very long hour. She found the new working environment more relaxing and comfortable, and she could gain HKD2000 for just 2 days.

If we simply base on the working conditions of Pat’s first job, not only she was not allowed to leave the workplace, she also had to work long hour and could not rest. Pat may appear as a typical trafficked victim to many people, and she should be rescued by the authorities. However, when she worked in another district, the working conditions improved and she also had a satisfactory income. She no longer thought of quitting the job and became happier. In this case, Pat would become an ordinary migrant sex worker but not the trafficked victim. Hence, it was not necessary for the government departments to offer her any protection or assistance.

Pat’s case is not an exceptional case. Many migrant sex workers have similar experiences. They may sometimes be treated unfairly at work, but they may also be treated well. What is important is that, no matter s/he is a trafficked victim or a migrant sex worker, when s/he is in trouble or needs help, the authorities or the concerned groups should first understand her/his needs and decide later what can be provided for her/him. The first to do should not be checking her/his identity with the ‘target group’ checklist. If we simply base on one part of her/his job experiences to check her/his identity, s/he will not receive any adequate support and eventually face bigger troubles.

  ▶  The 56th issue of Zi Teng Newsletter