In the 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report [report, PDF] released on Tuesday, the US State Department [official website] downgraded China to Tier 3, which is the lowest tier for human trafficking. Tier 3 represents “countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so. China joins 22 other countries in the tier, including Russia, North Korea and Syria. China was last in Tier 3 in 2013, being located in Tier 2 Watch List in 2014-2016. A country is automatically downgraded to Tier 3 if they are located in Tier 2 Watch List for more than two years unless they are granted a waiver. In order to be in Tier 2, a country must be making significant efforts to come in compliance with Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards. The report acknowledged that China has made some steps to address trafficking. However, the government has been found to be complicit in forced labor at drug rehabilitation centers and in Xinjiang. The country also forcibly returned North Koreans to North Korea without screening them for signs of trafficking. It is also unclear if the country has screened for signs of trafficking any of those who were arrested for prostitution. The total number of people who were convicted for sex and labor trafficking has decreased compared to the previous year.
China has seen continued criticism regarding their treatment of human rights in recent years. In February the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) [Official website] released [JURIST report] an report accusing China of criminalizing human rights activities. In December the UN called on China to investigate [JURIST report] the disappearance of human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong, after he had been missing for two months. The same month China suspended [JURIST report] the law license of prominent human rights lawyer Li Jinxing, over his apparent allegedly unacceptable behavior in court while defending a client. In September China handed down a 12 year sentence [JURIST report] to prominent human rights lawyer Xia Lin.