Hong Kong ranks alongside North Korea and Iran as one of worst places in world at dealing with modern slavery

Global Slavery Index rates city worse than mainland China for ‘inadequate’ response to issues like human trafficking, forced labour and debt bondage.

Hong Kong has been ranked as one of the worst places on the planet for the way it deals with “modern slavery”, in a new report which says 45.8 million people are currently enslaved worldwide – two-thirds of them in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Global Slavery Index 2016 ranks Hong Kong alongside North Korea, Iran and Eritrea for its “inadequate” response to the problems of human trafficking, forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage and commercial sexual exploitation, which the index says define modern-day slavery.

Published by the Walk Free Foundation – a charitable organisation set up by Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest and his wife Nicola – the index is the only one of its kind and offers estimates of the number of people in modern slavery, describes what makes them vulnerable and ranks governments on their response to the problem.

The third such annual index published by the foundation ranks more than 160 countries and jurisdictions worldwide and arrived at its findings after carrying out almost 42,000 interviews in 53 languages across 25 countries, representing 44 per cent of the global population.

Asian countries hold the top five positions for highest number of people trapped in slavery, accounting for almost 58 per cent of the total, or 26.6 million people.

India remains top of the list with an estimated 18.35 million people enslaved, followed by China with 3.39 million, Pakistan with 2.13 million, Bangladesh with 1.53 million and Uzbekistan with 1.23 million.

According to the index, an estimated 4.37% of North Korea’s population are enslaved, making it the worst in the world.

The government of the isolated dictatorship in Pyongyang is also ranked as the weakest in the world when it comes to taking action to combat modern slavery.

Just four places above North Korea – at 157th out of 161 countries in terms of taking action – is Hong Kong.

The index authors rank the Hong Kong government as one of the few in the world which “has a limited response to modern slavery”.

It goes on to say that the SAR administration has “largely basic victim support services, a limited criminal justice framework, limited coordination or collaboration mechanism, and few protections for those vulnerable to modern slavery”, adding worryingly that “there may be evidence that some government policies and practices facilitate slavery and that services are largely provided by IOs/NGOs with limited government funding or in-kind support”.

China, while criticised for having so many people enslaved according to the index, receives a higher ranking than Hong Kong for the actions it is taking to combat the problem.

The report says that Beijing has displayed a limited response to modern slavery, offering limited victim support services, a criminal justice framework that criminalises some forms of the problem, and has policies that provide some protection for those vulnerable to modern slavery.

It goes on to say that “there may be evidence of a national action plan and/or national coordination body. There may be evidence that some government policies and practices may criminalise and/or deport victims and/or facilitate slavery”.

The Hong Kong government was not immediately available for comment on the contents of the Global Slavery Index 2016.

by Niall Fraser

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 May, 2016, 9:55am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 May, 2016, 10:06am

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