U.S. to de­clare China among worst of­fend­ers in hu­man traf­fick­ing.

White House to down­grade Beijing to Tier 3 sta­tus

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY JOSH LEDERMAN AND MATTHEW LEE

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is poised to de­clare China among the world’s worst of­fend­ers on hu­man traf­fick­ing, U.S. of­fi­cials said Mon­day, putting the world’s most pop­u­lous coun­try in the same cat­e­gory as North Korea, Zim­babwe and Syria.

China’s down­grade is to be an­nounced Tues­day at the State De­part­ment when Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son un­veils the an­nual Traf­fick­ing in Per­sons Re­port to Congress, said the of­fi­cials, speak­ing on back­ground. Ivanka Trump, the pres­i­dent’s daugh­ter and se­nior ad­viser, planned to at­tend the cer­e­mony.

The de­ter­mi­na­tion marks the first ma­jor pub­lic re­buke of China’s hu­man rights record by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, which has gen­er­ally avoided di­rect, pub­lic crit­i­cism of Beijing while seek­ing its co­op­er­a­tion in com­bat­ting North Korea’s nu­clear and mis­sile threats. The re­port is likely to draw strong protest from China’s com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment.

China will be listed un­der “Tier 3,” the rank­ing sys­tem’s low­est cat­e­gory, which ap­plies to coun­tries fail­ing to meet min­i­mum stan­dards to pre­vent hu­man traf­fick­ing or mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment ef­forts. Other coun­tries that have re­cently been on that list in­clude Su­dan, Iran and Haiti.

Rep. Chris Smith, the New Jersey Re­pub­li­can who wrote the 2000 U.S. law on hu­man traf­fick­ing, praised the de­ci­sion to down­grade China in a state­ment Mon­day.

“The Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion deserves credit for mak­ing the right call on China,” Mr. Smith said. “Hope­fully, the tier rank­ing and fur­ther diplo­macy — in­clud­ing the im­po­si­tion of sanc­tions — ... will lead to re­forms that will save women and chil­dren’s lives and en­sure that Chi­nese ex­ports are not made with slave la­bor.”

In last year’s an­nual re­port, the U.S. placed China on its “watch list” of coun­tries that aren’t meet­ing min­i­mum stan­dards and could be down­graded to the low­est clas­si­fi­ca­tion. The U.S. de­scribed China as de­vot­ing “suf­fi­cient re­sources” to a writ­ten plan for ad­dress­ing traf­fick­ing. But it said that the Asian power hadn’t in­creased its an­ti­traf­fick­ing ef­forts from the pre­vi­ous year.

It wasn’t im­me­di­ately clear what changes are lead­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to down­grade China to the low­est tier. The State De­part­ment de­clined to con­firm the des­ig­na­tion or to com­ment ahead of the re­port’s re­lease Tues­day, say­ing it “does not dis­cuss de­tails of in­ter­nal de­lib­er­a­tions.”

In the 2016 re­port, the U.S. called China a “source, des­ti­na­tion and tran­sit coun­try” for forced la­bor and sex traf­fick­ing. That re­port de­scribed in­ter­nal mi­grants in China as par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble, with some forced to work with lit­tle gov­ern­ment over­sight in fac­to­ries and coal mines. It said men, women and chil­dren from other Asian coun­tries and from Africa also are ex­ploited.

The re­port also raised con­cerns about forced beg­ging in China that par­tic­u­larly af­fects chil­dren. It said that girls and women from ru­ral ar­eas are at higher risk of be­ing re­cruited for sex traf­fick­ing in cities.

Coun­tries placed in Tier 3 can be pe­nal­ized with sanc­tions, in­clud­ing the with­hold­ing of non-hu­man­i­tar­ian aid and as­sis­tance that could af­fect agree­ments with the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund and World Bank. Of­fi­cials from coun­tries des­ig­nated in that tier can be barred from par­tic­i­pat­ing in U.S. gov­ern­ment ed­u­ca­tional and cul­tural ex­change pro­grams.

How­ever, the pres­i­dent re­tains the author­ity to waive the sanc­tions in U.S. na­tional in­ter­est or if the penal­ties could ad­versely af­fect vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions. In prac­tice, coun­tries given the worst des­ig­na­tion have of­ten been granted waivers un­der pre­vi­ous U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tions.

Ivanka Trump wrote on Twit­ter on Mon­day that she was “hon­ored to join the De­part­ment of State” for the re­port’s re­lease.

Though Ms. Trump has em­pha­sized hu­man traf­fick­ing is­sues as an ad­viser to her fa­ther, her fash­ion brand has come un­der scru­tiny over its work with a Chi­nese com­pany that pro­duced shoes for her brand and oth­ers. New York-based China La­bor Watch has ac­cused that com­pany of ex­ces­sive overtime, low wages and ver­bal abuse of em­ploy­ees, though not of hu­man traf­fick­ing. The brand says it stopped us­ing the fac­tory months ago. Ms. Trump has stepped back from run­ning the com­pany, but re­tains own­er­ship.

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