The Obama Administration's failure to hold China accountable for its atrocious human trafficking violations in this year's annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report was called "shameful" and a "dereliction of duty" by Chris Smith, the lawmaker who wrote the first-ever U.S. law to combat trafficking in 2000 and whose law created the annual report with its tier ranking system (Public Law 106-386).
Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), author of the landmark the Trafficking Victims and Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) as well as subsequent laws to adapt and strengthen the TVPA, said he was "appalled" that China was given a political waiver despite its rampant and growing problem of human trafficking, particularly sex-trafficking of women and girls.
"China has remained on the "Watch List' for eight years now, evading a downgrade to Tier 3--and sanctions--by stringing this President along with empty promises," said Smith, who chairs the House subcommittee that oversees human rights and co-chairs the Congressional Human Trafficking Caucus. "Congress could not have been more clear that the Tier 2 Watch List was not meant to be a sanctuary for countries that fail to address--or themselves commit--the atrocious human rights abuses of human trafficking."
The report contains the litany of trafficking crimes perpetrated in China including forced labor of children and of the disabled in brick kilns, repatriation of North Korean trafficking victims, the trafficking of women and children from surrounding countries for sexual exploitation, and the trafficking magnet effect of China's one-child policy, which, coupled with a cultural preference for sons, creates a skewed sex ratio in China. According to the report, the one-child policy is a key cause of trafficking of foreign women as brides for Chinese men and for forced prostitution. China's own statistics show a substantial increase in the number of women trafficked to China in 2011.
"China was granted a waiver last year because its government allegedly had a "written plan that, if implemented, would constitute a significant effort to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards' and it was allegedly "devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan'-- it is the exact same story this year, except for that we still do not know the contents of the plan and its release has been postponed yet again," Smith said. "Where are the results? When will the Administration say that enough is enough?"
In the most recent reauthorization of the TVPA, Congress decided that no country should be allowed to skirt sanctions on the Tier 2 Watch List for more than two years. This year, 2012, represents the second year that the limit was put to the test.
"Our obligation is to the victims of trafficking, not the dictatorship, as I have stressed in the past," Smith said.
The report showed good news in other parts of the world, with an overall increase for 2011 in the number of traffickers convicted (3,969) and the number of victims identified (42,291) (Click Here to Read the 2012 Report).
This year's report evaluated 186 countries, 28 of which were upgraded in the tier rankings. Fourteen countries were downgraded this year--including three previous Tier 1 countries. Bosnia Herzegovina, Nigeria, and Portugal were downgraded to Tier 2 this year, underscoring the importance of consistent implementation of anti-trafficking laws.
"It is not enough to have good laws on the books here or anywhere else," said Smith. "They must be funded and implemented in order to meet the minimum standards of combating human trafficking."
Notably, only one additional country was downgraded to Tier 3 this year.
In addition to the original 2000 law which provided for the annual reports, Smith wrote two subsequent anti-trafficking laws (PL 108-193 and PL 109-164) increasing resources for crime prevention and expanding treatment assistance for victims.