China is among the world’s worst offenders of human trafficking, according to a new Department of State report.
The Trafficking in Persons Report is an annual assessment of international efforts to address human trafficking, a form of modern slavery. In the new report released Tuesday, the State Department downgraded China’s status, moving it from the watch list to the lowest tier, which could expose China to certain penalties.
China is joined by Iran, North Korea, Russia, Sudan, Syria and a number of other countries where human trafficking continues to be a serious problem. China’s status was changed due to the perpetuation of the problem and limited government action in response. Drug addicts and minorities are reportedly still being used as forced labor, and China continues to repatriate North Korean defectors, who are sent to prison and labor camps as punishment.
The new report was announced by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump.
China did not respond positively to the new report. Beijing criticized the U.S. for “speaking irresponsibly,” arguing that its efforts to fight human trafficking “obvious for everyone to see.”
While the Trump administration has been eager to work with China on North Korea, the U.S. has continued to anger Beijing through freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea, the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile shield in South Korea, and criticisms of human rights record.
The Department of Commerce is expected to take action against detrimental foreign steel imports later this week, which is likely to upset China other. While President Donald Trump has spoken highly of Chinese President Xi Jinping in the aftermath of a very positive meeting in Mar-a-Lago in April, it is unclear how long the honeymoon will last.
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