Hong Kong has been criticised in the 2016 Global Slavery Index, published by the Walk Free Foundation earlier this week, for not doing enough to combat modern-day slavery.
The report, which estimates that 45.8 million people across 167 countries are in some form of slavery, ranks countries based on the proportion of the population estimated to be in slavery. In addition, the Index looks at government responses to the issue of slavery, placing Hong Kong in the bottom five in terms of action taken to tackle this important issue. The only countries to rank lower than Hong Kong were North Korea, Iran, Eritrea and Equatorial Guinea, many of which suffer from high levels of conflict and political instability.
The latest findings come just two months after a report published by the Justice Centre Hong Kong claimed that one in six domestic workers in the city are in forced labour, of whom 14% have been trafficked into it. The report went on to state that just 5.4% of domestic workers surveyed showed no signs of exploitation or forced labour.
It stated, “Existing labour provisions and enforcement measures currently in place are not enough to protect MDWs from the risk of generalised labour exploitation, forced labour, or trafficking for the purpose of forced labour” and called on the Hong Kong government to “take proactive measures to protect MDWs from exploitation and abuse and offer more assistance to MDWs who fall victim.”
Following publication of the Index, the South China Morning Post reported that the Hong Kong government had strongly challenged the findings and questioned the methodology of the investigation, quoting a spokesman as saying, “We note that the rating of government was determined based only on desk-based research and information provided by partnering NGOs, without any verification on accuracy and completeness from the Government.” They went on to report that “the spokesman added that the government and people of Hong Kong did not condone “in any way” acts of modern slavery.”