In August of 2012, Freda* arrived in Hong Kong together with five other Filipina women to take up employment as waitresses, an arrangement that was promised to them by recruiters back home. As is often the case, they were required to pay the equivalent of $10,400hkd up front for accommodations and living expenses. Upon arrival, they were informed of an additional cost of $10,000hkd to cover their air tickets, hotel rooms, and food. None of the women were able to pay off this unexpected cost, placing them in considerable debt to their traffickers.
The waitressing positions turned out to be a sham, and the six women were forced into sex work in order to pay back their debts. Their working conditions were inhumane to say the least, requiring them to serve their customers even when ill, and some were forced to sell alcohol as well. The living arrangements were no better, as they were locked up in their rooms when not working and given meager food rations. One woman later said that she felt their treatment was worse than that of animals.
Their dire circumstances prompted them to escape from their Wan Chai boarding house after several months of their fraudulent and illegal employment. Fortunately, they were able to find assistance from the Philippines Consulate and, in December of 2012, two Philippine nationals were arrested in Hong Kong as a result. They were eventually convicted of two counts of Trafficking in Persons and five counts of Aiding and Abetting Illegal Employment, and they were sentenced to three years in prison (although this pales in comparison to the maximum penalty of ten years imprisonment). This was one of only a handful of successful convictions each year under Hong Kong’s limited trafficking in persons legislation.
*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 September 4, 2015. Story provided by the Diocesan Pastoral Centre for Filipinos.