The allure of trafficking and its financial rewards has, in many cases, lead individuals to turn on their own family members. In August of 2010, two Philippine nationals, Nicole* along with her cousin Danielle, were lured into Hong Kong by an aunt promising jobs as waitresses, where they would earn HK$80 per hour. When they arrived, however, they were immediately transported to a nightclub in Wan Chai and forced to pay HK$1,500 each for accommodations, and an additional HK$500 to the building security guard. Their actual work involved dressing in skimpy clothing and providing sexual services to customers, for which they would receive HK$800 as a reward.
Nicole and Danielle found it exceedingly difficult to have to endure the continual sexual advances of the nightclub customers, so they eventually ran away to seek assistance from the Philippines Consulate.
The Consulate took immediate action, referring the women to the Organized Crime and Triad Bureau (OCTB) of the Hong Kong Police Force. On the basis of their testimony, the OCTB conducted a raid of the premises, arresting five female Philippines nationals. The group of five produced Foreign Domestic Helper visas and claimed that they happened to be at the nightclub to celebrate a birthday, though the OCTB suspected that the traffickers had coached them on what to say. Faced with unclear and non-existent guidelines on how to identify potential victims of trafficking, the OCTB transferred the case to the Immigration Department on suspicion of breaching their condition of stay. The two cousins later agreed to act as witnesses for the prosecution.
As the case progressed, the traffickers contacted the families of the cousins, sometimes posing as officials from the Philippines Consulate. They made various threats against the safety of the two women, promising to make their lives increasingly difficult and dangerous if they continued to act as witnesses for the prosecution.
Despite the scare tactics, they persisted in cooperating with the authorities and, in March of 2011, they were able to testify in court about their experiences with the two accused. As a result of Nicole and Danielle’s testimony, the traffickers were convicted of Trafficking in Persons and Aiding and Abetting the Breach of their Conditions of Stay. Though they were sentenced to just 21 months and 18 months imprisonment respectively, it is a small victory for the women.
*All names and identifying information have been changed to protect the identity of the survivors.
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 October 4, 2015. Story provided by the Diocesan Pastoral Centre for Filipinos.