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Marriage Proposals from China turn into Street Prostitution Nightmares for Lao High School Girls

Chinese involvement in sex trafficking is a new wrinkle for Laos, as Thailand has been the most common destination for young women or girls forced into prostitution

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Map of Laos RFA

China, May 29, 2017: Lao high school girls are being lured into China with promises of rich husbands only to find they have been sold to a brothel or forced into street prostitution, RFA’s Lao Service has learned.

Chinese involvement in sex trafficking is a new wrinkle for Laos, as Thailand has been the most common destination for young women or girls forced into prostitution.

“This is a new trend,” said an official with an anti-trafficking nongovernmental organization (NGO), who requested anonymity because members of the group are not allowed to talk to the media.

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“Girls are lured to China to get married,” the official said.  “It’s a form of human trafficking.”

The victims are not just confined to northern Laos, where the land-locked nation borders China.

“They come from all over the country, the South, the center and Vientiane,” the official said. “The government is now very worried about this.”

Chinese men typically come to villages looking for poor high school girls who think that all Chinese are rich. They believe they are going to China or another part of Laos where they will get married, but more often than not they are forced into prostitution.

“These are grade 11-12 students whose families are poor,” a Xieng Ngeun resident told RFA. “They drop out of school to get married to Chinese men.”

In Xayaburi province’s Pak Lai district, one girl sent a message to her parents two months ago saying she was forced to provide sex service at a brothel. When she resisted, she was detained and physically attacked, a Pak Lai resident told RFA.

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The Lao people who spoke to RFA did so on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation in a country where media is tightly controlled.

The Pak Lai district girl, who had finished high school, met a Chinese man who had come to her village, the resident said. The man told her he loved her and then made arrangements with a middle man, the resident added.

‘He sold her to a brothel’

Not long after they were engaged, the man took her to China where she disappeared, except for an occasional online message.

“She was detained for three or four days. Her husband was not truthful,” the Pak Lai resident told RFA. “He sold her to a brothel.”

It’s a story that’s repeated again and again inside Laos, but it is next to impossible to determine with any accuracy how many times it happens.

“It’s unknown,” the NGO official said. “We don’t have any information about the number because there has been no survey on this.”

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While human trafficking, particularly for sex, is an illegal activity, making it difficult to track, the uptick in sex trafficking to China has been recognized by the U.S. State Department.

“A small, possibly increasing, number of women and girls from Laos are sold as brides in China and subjected to sex trafficking,” the State Department said in its 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report.

The State Department kept Laos on its Tier 2 Watch List, but the country barely escaped being named a Tier 3 country—the department’s lowest ranking.

“The government did not demonstrate overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Laos is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a third consecutive year,” the report said.

“Per the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, Laos was granted a waiver from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 because its government has devoted sufficient resources to a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute significant efforts to meet the minimum standards,” the State Department wrote.

Laos’ efforts to combat sex trafficking have not translated into a way out for impoverished Lao teenage girls.

Never brides, but unwed mothers

“Many people in the villages believe Chinese men are rich,” one villager told RFA.

In her village at least eight girls have gone to China. One girl who left for China three months ago has never contacted her worried parents.

“Many, many Chinese men come to our village looking for brides,” the villager said. “Some of the girls come back to the village, and a few of them come with one or two babies, but without their Chinese husbands.”

Laos and China signed an anti-human trafficking cooperation memorandum of understanding in 2014, and the countries have drafted an action plan to combat human trafficking, but local officials have done little to help and may in fact be part of the problem.

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“In the past police officers would come to our village ask us if our daughters have been lured to China, but now there is no police presence,” the villager told RFA.

According to the State Department’s report, government officials sometimes stand in the way.

“Civil society organizations with trafficking expertise report a lack of transparency from the government. At times, authorities may have impeded the work of NGOs by requiring prior government approval of all anti-trafficking activities,” the State Department found.

“Some local officials may contribute to trafficking by accepting payments to facilitate the immigration or transportation of girls to Thailand,” it added.

While the State Department singled out Thailand, it is likely that local Lao officials are also doing the same with regard to China.

Bribes, kickbacks, document forgery, and fraud have become a part of life in Laos, which Transparency International ranks as the 139th most corrupt out of 168 nations.

Although the girls who left Laos were looking for love, or at least a husband, the girls who have returned to their country say have had enough of China.

“These girls say they don’t want to go back to China,” said the villager.(RFA)

Next Story

Taiwan President Announced Re- election after she Spoke Against China’s President Suggestion

Tsai indicated she plans to run for another four-year term as president.

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taiwan, china, president
FILE - Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen speaks during a news conference in Taipei, Taiwan, Jan. 5, 2019. VOA

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen announced her re-election bid this week following a bump in public polling that came after she spoke out against Chinese President Xi Jinping’s suggestion that Taiwan and China unify as one country.

She was polling at 24 percent after her party lost local elections in November. In January she was speaking out every few days against Xi’s idea and her approval ratings hit 34.5 percent by Jan. 21, according to a Taiwan Public Opinion Foundation survey.

On Wednesday, Tsai indicated she plans to run for another four-year term as president. Inspired by her jump in approval ratings, Tsai will center at least the early part of her campaign over the coming year on raising public suspicion of China, political scientists say.

“Their campaign strategy is to speak of hating China, fearing China and refusing China,” said Huang Kwei-bo, vice dean of the international affairs college at National Chengchi University. If officials reiterate these messages and they appear in the mass media, he said, “ultimately people will be affected by them.”

China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since the 1940s and insists that the two sides eventually unify. Most Taiwanese oppose that outcome.

 

taiwan, china, president
FILE- President of China Xi Jinping arrives for the APEC CEO Summit 2018 at Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, Nov. 17, 2018. VOA

Opportunity to talk about China

The Chinese president’s Jan. 2 speech urging Taiwan to accept unification gave Tsai an unexpected opening to warn citizens against ties with China, political experts say.

In his remarks, Xi urged Taiwan to merge with China under a “one country, two systems” model that his government applies now to Hong Kong. Hong Kong is ruled from Beijing, but local officials make some decisions.

China has claimed Taiwan since the Chinese Civil War, when Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists lost and rebased their government in Taiwan. Tsai took office in 2016. Since then she has irked China by refusing to negotiate on the condition that both sides belong to one China.

More than 70 percent of Taiwanese say in government surveys they prefer today’s self-rule, or full legal independence from China, over unification.

In one comment since the Chinese president’s speech, Tsai warned at an impromptu news conference Wednesday against any China-Taiwan peace agreement.

“China’s military ambitions and not giving up deployment of arms against Taiwan are making the region unstable,” she said. “As China doesn’t give up weapons aimed at Taiwan and emphasizes ‘one country, two systems,’ there’s no way to negotiate equally and there can’t be any real peace.”

Knack for China issues

Tsai, as former chairwoman of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and a former government official in charge of Taiwan’s China policy, knows the issue particularly well, said Lin Chong-pin, a retired strategic studies professor in Taiwan.

“This is her forte,” Lin said. “She has been immersed in it for 18 long years.”

Since 2016, China has shown displeasure with Tsai by passing military aircraft and ships near Taiwan and persuading five foreign countries to switch allegiance from Taipei to Beijing. Taiwan has just 17 allies left.

“In international relations, what she can do is limited, we all know that, but in winning the public support in Taiwan, especially on controversial issues like ‘one country, two systems,’ she’s very, very capable,” Lin said.

Her party takes a guarded view of China compared to Taiwan’s main opposition camp, which advocates that the two sides talk on Beijing’s condition.

taiwan, china, president
FILE – Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je casts his ballot at a polling station, Nov. 24, 2018, in Taipei, Taiwan. VOA

Tough campaign

According to a survey released Thursday by Taiwan television network TVBS, Tsai would take 16 percent of the vote if the presidential race were held today and she ran against non-party aligned Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je and Han Kuo-yu, opposition Nationalist Party mayor of the southern city Kaohsiung. The two mayors would get shares of more than 30 percent each, TVBS said.

taiwan, china, president
FILE – Nationalist Party’s Han Kuo-yu reacts after winning the mayoral election in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Nov. 24, 2018. VOA

Much of the public wants Tsai to stand up against China but also take stronger action on domestic economic problems, voters said in interviews in November. Among the domestic issues: low wages compared to other parts of Asia and rising costs, especially real estate.

ALSO READ: Judge Order Government Find Separated Children at US-Mexico Border

“She has already shown that she is against the ‘one family, two sides’ or ‘one country, two systems.’ That’s good,” said Shane Lee, political scientist with Chang Jung Christian University in Taiwan. “That will probably give her some points. But domestically there are many policies she will have to change.” (VOA)