Women, children and babies: human trafficking to China is on the rise

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by Peter Tran

Between 2012 and 2017, Vietnamese authorities rescued some 7,500 people. Móng Cái, a border town, has now become the main hub for human trafficking. Criminal organisations use “intermediaries” to trick women from tribal mountain communities. Phạm Thị Minh T., forced into prostitution at 17, tells her story.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Human trafficking between Vietnam’s border provinces and China has increased alarmingly. It includes surrogacy, children sold and young women forced into marriage or prostitution.

According to Vietnam’s Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, the authorities saved about 7,500 people from trafficking between 2012 and 2017, almost 90 per cent of them women and children, especially girls.

Seven Vietnamese provinces – Điện Biên, Lai Châu, Lào Cai, Hà Giang, Cao Bằng, Lạng Sơn and Quảng Ninh – share a border with China (Yunnan and Guangxi provinces). One of them, Quảng Ninh, has virtually become a land of pimps.

Between 2012 and 2018, local authorities foiled 48 trafficking cases. Some 85 traffickers were arrested, and 78 victims rescued: five men, 32 girls under 18, 46 adult women and two young Cambodian women.

In 2018 and the first quarter of 2019, provincial authorities helped repatriate 60 Vietnamese women and infants taken to China.

Criminal organisations operating in the northern province are mainly concentrated in three border locations: the city of Móng Cái, plus Bình Liêu and Hải Hà districts.

In particular, Móng Cái – which has a border crossing – is now the main hub for human trafficking. One reason is that Chinese citizens entering Vietnam here do not need a visa for up to 15 days.

Most people from China cross the border for tourism, small business or family visits. However, some are criminals involved in smuggling, selling drugs or trafficking in young women and babies.

Over time, human rights NGOs, social workers and government agencies discovered some of the tricks criminals use to draw victims into their racket.

The gangsters use “intermediaries” who often travel to the mountain communities – where ethnic minorities live – to visit the families of pregnant women.

Taking advantage of their hard life, these “mediators” convince poor mothers to go to China to deliver their babies and then sell them to Chinese buyers. In Vietnam, the practice is called “buying and selling foetuses”.

Last November, Vietnamese authorities rescued 25 women from tribal areas who had been persuaded to give up their children in Kơ Sơn district (Nghệ An province).

The mothers were promised 80 and 140 million Vietnamese đồng (US$ 3,450 to US$ 6,035). For members of ethnic minorities, this is a lot of money.

The victims’ statements highlight that human trafficking between Vietnam and China is becoming increasingly appalling and is spreading to other parts of the country.

Phạm Thị Minh T. lives in the Mekong Delta, south-western Vietnam. The young woman was duped and sold in China when she was 17 years old.

“When I arrived in a big city, the woman who was with me started talking to another person, in a language unknown to me. I didn’t understand what they were saying, but I knew I wasn’t in Vietnam anymore: I was in China,” she told Vietnamese social workers.

“I was very scared and worried about my safety. The Vietnamese woman (the intermediary) had delivered me to a Chinese woman who took me to a very remote location and forced me into prostitution. I knew I had been duped by the two.”

“Some Vietnamese women worked with me in a brothel,” she said, tears in her eyes. “They had been deceived just like me. For years they had been forced into prostitution. The pimps controlled us closely. Every day I had to work with five or seven clients.

“I was only 17 at the time. I didn’t dare run away. After two years in that place, I felt exhausted and in a psychological crisis. I thought I no longer had the chance to return to Vietnam. But fortunately, three friends and I were saved by some Vietnamese and other Chinese people.”

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