US State Department downgrades Macau in human trafficking report

The U.S. State Department has downgraded the Macau SAR in its most recent global report on human trafficking, expressing particular concern over what it sees as the local government’s failure to identify and protect victims.
The 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report concluded that Macau has not fully met the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but was making significant efforts to do so. It highlighted and commended the training of police, customs, and social welfare officials and the funding of awareness campaigns on public transportation.
However, the State Department said it had observed a decline in the “overall […] efforts compared to the previous reporting period.” For example, funding for the committee for anti-trafficking activities in Macau fell to 3.24 million patacas in 2019, compared with 3.7 million patacas a year earlier, according to data cited in the report.
The State Department was particularly attentive to sex trafficking in Macau.
It said that most of the victims are from mainland China, Russia and Southeast Asia. The victims are coerced into commercial sex in massage parlors, nightclubs and other entertainment venues in casinos, hotels and private homes. They are forced to work long hours, may be threatened with violence, and sometimes their identity documents are confiscated.
“Concerns remained that traffickers exploited victims in Macau, especially in commercial sex,” noted the State Department. “However, the government investigated only one potential case, did not provide assistance to any victims, and did not initiate any prosecutions or sentence convicted traffickers to significant terms of imprisonment.”
The State Department issued recommendations in the report, for example, “significantly [increasing] proactive victim identification, especially among vulnerable populations such as migrant workers and persons in commercial sex.”
It also said the authorities should enhance their investigation and prosecution efforts to convict sex traffickers, “including those operating in casinos and other entertainment establishments.”
The Macau government has issued a strong condemnation of the report, entirely rebuking the U.S. assessment.
The Office of the Secretary for Security said that the government has effectively reduced the incidence of human trafficking, as evidenced in the falling number of cases in Macau.
The Office said that the U.S. report “once again, did not accurately reflect the real situation in Macau, showing itself to be full of biased interpretations, an inaccurate conclusion and groundless assumptions, as well as revealing a lack of knowledge about Macau’s legal system.

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