U.S. Names China Among Worst Human Trafficking Offenders
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The Trump administration seems to be going after another source of funding for North Korea - the slave labor it sends overseas. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson blames China for not doing enough to crack down on this market. He's put China on the list of worst offenders in the State Department's annual human trafficking report. Here's NPR's Michele Kelemen.
MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: When the State Department released its human rights report earlier this year, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was a no-show. But for the trafficking report, he invited dignitaries to a ceremony where the president's daughter Ivanka Trump spoke about America's moral and strategic interest in this topic.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
IVANKA TRUMP: On a personal level, as a mother, this is much more than a policy priority. It is a clarion call to action in defense of the vulnerable, the abused and the exploited.
KELEMEN: She did not mention her own business dealings in China, a country that was downgraded in this year's report because of forced labor and sex trafficking. Secretary Tillerson made clear his concern is mostly about the 50,000 to 80,000 North Korean workers in China and in Russia.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
REX TILLERSON: The North Korean regime receives hundreds of millions of dollars per year from the fruits of forced labor. Responsible nations simply cannot allow this to go on, and we continue to call on any nation that is hosting workers from North Korea in a forced-labor arrangement to send those people home.
KELEMEN: He's been trying to persuade China to do more to curb North Korea's nuclear program. In the crowd after the ceremony, Republican Congressman Chris Smith called it a bold move to downgrade China at this delicate diplomatic moment.
CHRIS SMITH: Friends don't let friends commit human rights abuses. So if Xi Jinping is a friend of Donald Trump, so be it.
KELEMEN: Some activists, though, see more of a political message in this trafficking report and not just when it comes to China, explains David Abramowitz of Humanity United.
DAVID ABRAMOWITZ: Countries like Thailand, which was not downgraded, as well as Burma, Qatar and Malaysia, which were all upgraded in this report, suggests that there are other dimensions that are happening here besides just looking at human trafficking.
KELEMEN: He says Tillerson himself pointed out that governments need to do more to stop human trafficking, and many of those countries have yet to enforce their anti-trafficking laws.
ABRAMOWITZ: You know, it's interesting that he also mentioned the importance of trying to create an environment where trafficking victims can come forward.
KELEMEN: Abramowitz says that's not happening here in the U.S. He accuses the Trump administration of creating a climate of fear in immigrant communities and says that may make it harder for police to work with victims and crack down on human traffickers. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department.
(SOUNDBITE OF THEOPHILUS LONDON AND KANYE WEST SONG, "CAN'T STOP")
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.