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Crushing cross-border trafficking

By Zhang Yan | China Daily | Updated: 2019-08-30 07:30

In addition, they rescued 1,130 abducted women who were sold to buyers in China for illegal marriage or to engage in sex work. Police also uncovered 126 cases of fraudulent marriage and detained 202 suspects, including 109 foreign nationals.

"Most of the foreign victims came from poor rural areas and had low levels of education," said Chen Shiqu, deputy director of the ministry's Criminal Investigation Bureau.

Chen said the ministry adheres to global protocols to keep the victims safe until they are repatriated or meet the necessary requirements to remain in China.

Chen Shiqu, deputy director of the ministry's Criminal Investigation Bureau.

"We strictly follow relevant international conventions and bilateral anti-human trafficking treaties to fully protect the rescued foreign women who had been kidnapped and make timely arrangements for their resettlement," Chen said.

He added that the bureau has guided 600 victims to apply for cross-border marriage certificates and residence permits.

According to Liu Zhongyi, the bureau's director, traffickers tend to target foreign women between the ages of 20 and 30 in rural areas. They either offer them good-paying jobs in businesses or the service industry or good marriage prospects.

Then they arrange for them to illegally enter China and send them to their Chinese accomplices, who then transport the victims to different regions of the country and either traffic them for bribes or sell them for marriage or sex services.

He said the price for each woman ranges from 50,000 to 120,000 yuan based on their nationality, age, shape and appearance.

Chen said police attach great importance to protecting the victims' rights.

"After saving them, we properly place them rather than detain them," he said. "We communicate with our counterparts in Southeast Asian countries and send the women victims back to their home countries."

Those who wish to stay in China should apply for their marriage documents and legal residence permits, he said.

It mainly depends on the women's will. For example, if they are pregnant, have become familiar with the environment or want to continue the marriage, they can go to their local public security department to apply for a residence permit or go to their civil affairs department to obtain marriage documents. Meanwhile, their husbands who purchased them will be held criminally accountable. Sometimes, though, the husbands don't serve their sentences in prison and will obtain a guarantor pending trial.

Severe punishments

According to Chinese law, it's illegal to set up agencies that deal in cross-border marriages. The law forbids any agent or institute from engaging in foreign-related marriage businesses, and they are not allowed to use deception or be involved with cross-border marriages to seek profits.

Chen said there is a big difference between cross-border marriages and transnational trafficking of women. In recent years, due to frequent population mobility and diplomatic contacts, legal cross-border marriages are on the rise.

"But those who use deceptive means to target the women, taking them against their will and forcing them to serve as brides and work as prostitutes will be held criminally accountable," he said.

Liu Peng, from the Beijing Lawyers Association, said that according to a notice issued by Chinese judicial authorities in 2017, people who abduct or transport women or children for the purpose of trading will be charged with trafficking. They could serve as few as five years in prison or as much as life imprisonment, or even the death penalty, depending on the nature of the case.

"If the circumstances are extremely serious, including causing the victims' death, they will face the death penalty, and their money and properties will be confiscated," Liu said.

According to Chen, China is planning to punish buyers more severely. Those who purchase abducted women or children will face prison terms of no more than three years.

Judicial cooperation

Liu Zhongyi said judicial authorities face practical challenges identifying such crimes and breaking the profit chain.

"We face difficulties in grasping the evidence, managing and controlling the borders and busting major women trafficking rings," he said.

According to the ministry, China has signed bilateral agreements on fighting human trafficking with Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand.

The country has also established eight border offices with neighboring countries, including four with Vietnam, to assist in curbing human trafficking, the ministry said.

Liu said China will strengthen intelligence sharing and joint investigation cooperation with the five Southeast Asian countries on some major and individual human trafficking cases.

Moreover, police will tighten border management and strengthen regular and irregular patrols on key areas on the border, such as bus stations, docks and small roads in the countryside or mountainous regions. This effort could block channels for suspects to smuggle women to China, greatly curbing human trafficking cases.

"Under pragmatic cooperation, police in China and their counterparts from Southeast Asian countries will share information in a timely manner, make immediate deployments and conduct unified action to completely smash the human trafficking rings and cut off their criminal networks," said Dai Peng, a law professor from the People's Public Security University of China in Beijing.

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