Florence*, a single mother in her late teens, was one day approached by a man in her village in the Philippines about a job opportunity in Hong Kong. After she agreed to take this job, she was told that she would owe HK$33,000 (US$4,250) before she had even left the Philippines. Florence was told that the payment had already been made for her employment visa fees (a cost of HK$160, about $20usd), airplane tickets, accommodation and other expenses. Not only that, she found out later that the job she had agreed to do was no longer on offer. She was going to have to work in the sex industry in Hong Kong’s redlight district in Wanchai, minutes away from the city’s glitzy financial centre.
“I started crying before he even touched me…”
The trafficker said he would go to her family and tell them what she would be doing unless she boarded the plane. With the debt hanging over her head and the threats of the trafficker, she was compelled to work in a seedy bar in Hong Kong, plying customers with drinks and then later having sex with them. “I started crying before he even touched me…”, Florence said as she remembered the first time she was with a customer. Only given a nominal payment every week, she was told she must remain in Hong Kong for total of 6 months in order to pay off her debt. Florence needed the money to pay the medical expenses of a family member in the Philippines as well as provide for her child. This was what drove her to remain. Only after the six months was she herself finally paid and allowed to go home.
We don’t know whether Florence ever returned to Hong Kong to work again, but we do know that many women become trapped in similar situations and end up in a cycle of dependence as this becomes the only way they could provide for their families. These are the women you see in the clubs on Lockhart Road.
*All names & identifying information have been changed to protect the identity of the survivor.
Are you or someone you know being trafficked?
Is human trafficking happening in your community? Recognizing potential red flags and knowing the indicators of human trafficking is a key step in identifying more victims and helping them find the assistance they need.
To reach out or report suspected cases of human trafficking in Hong Kong, please contact us at connect@100storiesHK.org.
A version of this story was originally published at www.stophk.org on July 14, 2015. Story provided by the Diocesan Pastoral Centre for Filipinos.
The photo is not of the actual victims.