Some progress has been made in combating the problem of human trafficking in China, but as Amy Katz reports, participants in a recent Washington hearing say more still needs to be done.
Since 1979, China has imposed a policy that couples may have only one child, to slow population growth. Since the traditional Chinese preference is for boys, many couples have done everything in their power not to have girls -- some even resorting to killing their own babies.
U.S. Congressman Christopher Smith calls the policy cruel. "The one child per couple policy imposes ruinous fines -- up to 10 times both the husband and wife's salary -- for a child who is conceived outside of a government plan. As a direct result of these crimes against humanity China today is missing girls; girls who were murdered simply because they are girls -- gender-cide."
Smith made the comment at a hearing held by the U.S. Congressional--Executive Commission on China in Washington Monday.
The shortage of women now in China has created a market for brides -- leading traffickers to abduct young women and then sell them -- as wives. In Sichuan Province one private detective has found and saved a number of young women. But others just disappear, such as one family's mother. She may have been lured by the prospect of a better job.
Officials have found young women being transported out of the country to become prostitutes abroad. The people responsible for trying to smuggle these women out of China were arrested, proof that China is taking steps to prevent trafficking.
Roger Plant of the International Labor Organization told the congressional committee, "I think we should not underestimate the extent to which some very positive thinking is going on, at various branches of both the national government and provincial governments, as how they can intensify action against trafficking. I think the focus has been so far almost exclusively on cracking down."
Ambassador John Miller, who is the Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking of Persons at the U.S. State Department, says the sentences handed down are tough. "You can get the death penalty under Chinese law for forcing a child under 14 into prostitution for example. But we don't know how many convictions there were and how many sentences there were."
Miller says that is information the U.S. Embassy in Beijing is trying to gather. Officials say knowing the true scope of the problem will help them hold themselves and the Chinese government accountable for making progress toward stopping human trafficking.