The Trump administration is expected to put China among the worst offenders for human trafficking, U.S. officials revealed Monday.
China will be ranked among other noteworthy offenders, including its neighbor North Korea, the Associated Press reports. The Department of State will list China in the lowest category, which is reserved for countries that fail to meet the minimum standards. China has reportedly made efforts, but gains have been limited.
China’s new status will reportedly be revealed when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson presents the annual Trafficking in Persons Report to Congress Tuesday. In last year’s human trafficking report, China was placed on the “watch list,” indicating that the U.S. was considering downgrading China’s ranking.
If the administration does list China as a serious human trafficking offender, it will mark the Trump administration’s first major public criticism of the Chinese human rights record. The president and his team, despite strong criticisms of China on the campaign trail, have been hesitant to raise tensions with China. The administration has made China an important player in the U.S. strategy to address growing threats on the Korean peninsula.
The Trump administration has conducted freedom-of-navigation acts in the South China Sea and pushed ahead with plans for the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile shield in South Korea, despite opposition from Beijing, but human rights have been largely placed on the back burner.
The new designation could expose China to potential sanctions or other penalties, but the president has the authority to waive penalties as he sees fit.
“The People’s Republic of China (China or PRC) is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking,” the 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report asserted, adding that forced begging is common across the country. The report further noted that the Chinese government has profited from forced labor.
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