Combating Human Slavery in South East Asia

Morley Chow Seto have co-authored a report to be used in the fight against slavery. The report looks at laws in different countries in a range of human trafficking scenarios and is designed for use by NGOs combatting human traffickers in the region and also by lawyers looking for creative ways to pursue traffickers on behalf of their victims. The Hong Kong section written by MCS lawyers Yvonne Ku and Christopher Morley is part of the TrustLaw publication entitled From Every Angle: Using the law to combat human trafficking in Southeast Asia. TrustLaw is the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global pro bono service that connects NGOs and social enterprises with the best law firms around the world. TrustLaw has partnered with Liberty Asia, Amauta Asia (Cambodia), White & Case (China), Morley Chow Seto (Hong Kong), Christopher Lee & Ong (Malaysia), Rajah & Tann (Myanmar), Clifford Chance (Thailand) and Grűnkorn & Partner Law (Vietnam) in the preparation of the report. We are proud to be part of this, using our criminal law experience in the fight against slavery. The report can be found here: PDF Download

Although a Special Administrative Region of China, Hong Kong’s anti-trafficking efforts are not on par with those of China and Macau, the second Special Administrative region of China. The very high number of anti-prostitution actions and disputes between domestic workers and their employees/agencies suggest that in fact the number of trafficking cases in Hong Kong should be higher than what is currently reflected in the low number of prosecutions and convictions. In addition, trafficking for forced labour is not provided for in the legal regime that focuses on cross-border sex trafficking for exploitation in prostitution.

Despite an improved awareness of the subject today as compared to a few years ago and the Government’s efforts to train frontline staff on victim identification, further action is required for a more credible counter-trafficking effort. Stakeholder engagement with the issue must be encouraged and research and data collection prioritized for a better understanding of the scope of the issue in Hong Kong. With emerging reports of young Hong Kong girls being trafficked for sex to Australia, there is an increasing urgency to promote education/awareness raising on the subject at all levels. Improving the social visibility of the subject will allow for better informed and targeted awareness at all stakeholder levels. By virtue of being a leading city in Asia, there is much hope that Hong Kong will step up to the task and lead by example given the staunch efforts on the counter-trafficking front by its neighbor and competitor Singapore. Singapore’s Anti-Trafficking Private Members’ Bill, its National Plan of Action and Case Referral System certainly provide Hong Kong with much food for thought.