MACAU: Tier 2 Watch list
The Government of the Macau Special Administrative Region (MSAR) of the People’s Republic of China does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated significant efforts during the reporting period by inspecting employment agencies, construction sites, and companies with gaming licenses for indicators of trafficking; conducting numerous anti-trafficking trainings and public awareness campaigns, including through new online videos available in eight languages; and providing services to all victims identified during the reporting period. However, the government did not demonstrate increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. Although authorities investigated four cases of potential labor trafficking in 2016, the government concluded they were not forced labor cases, and pursued prosecutions under other charges. Authorities have never identified labor trafficking victims in Macau. The government initiated eight trafficking investigations and two prosecutions, but did not obtain any trafficking convictions for the second consecutive year. Macau authorities identified four sex trafficking victims—the lowest number in the past five years. Therefore, Macau was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR MACAU
Significantly increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict sex and labor traffickers; improve and consistently implement proactive victim identification methods, especially among vulnerable populations such as migrant workers and children exploited in commercial sex, and increase efforts to identify labor trafficking and male victims; institute a minimum wage for foreign domestic workers; continue to educate law enforcement and other officials and the public on forced labor and sex trafficking; conduct sex trafficking awareness campaigns so visitors in Macau understand purchasing sex with children is a crime; and conduct a survey of the migrant labor population to identify its vulnerabilities to trafficking.
Authorities maintained minimal anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The anti-trafficking law, law number 6/2008 within the penal code, criminalizes all forms of trafficking in persons and prescribes penalties of three to 15 years imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The more than 30 million annual tourists to MSAR continued to pose major challenges in addressing trafficking crimes. Prosecutors continued to use the “procuring of prostitution” provision for some cases with elements of trafficking; this crime has simpler evidentiary standards but carries lighter penalties than Macau’s trafficking law.
Authorities conducted investigations of eight suspected human trafficking cases in 2016, the same number investigated in 2015. Two investigations resulted in trafficking prosecutions during the reporting period, compared to four in 2015. Four of the investigations involved suspected labor trafficking, but police officials referred three cases for prosecution on other charges after determining none exhibited elements of forced labor (zero labor trafficking prosecutions in 2015). Of four suspected cases of sex trafficking investigated by authorities, the government initiated two prosecutions on trafficking charges, which were ongoing at the end of the reporting period (four sex trafficking prosecutions in 2015). The other two cases were prosecuted under procurement statutes even though one victim was a child and thus, by international definition, a sex trafficking victim. The government did not obtain any sex trafficking convictions for the second consecutive year and has never obtained a labor trafficking conviction.
Authorities organized numerous anti-trafficking law enforcement and awareness trainings for police, social welfare officials, labor inspectors, and public security police officers during the year. Authorities reported cooperating with mainland Chinese and Hong Kong authorities on anti-trafficking efforts through intelligence exchanges and joint investigations. Authorities did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.
Authorities decreased efforts to identify and protect trafficking victims. Authorities identified four victims of sex trafficking, including three children and one adult, compared to six in 2015, five in 2014, and 38 in 2013. Authorities have never identified labor trafficking victims in Macau. The social welfare bureau (SWB) reported offering shelter and providing economic, counseling, and medical assistance to all four identified victims in cooperation with local NGOs; local NGOs applauded the government’s cooperative efforts in providing victim support services. Authorities designated 21 beds for female trafficking victims at a shelter managed by SWB, which assisted the one adult victim identified in 2016. The government provided financial assistance to improve the facilities of an NGO-run home that housed all identified child victims and provided access to educational resources. SWB continued to operate a shelter for male victims, although, as in prior years, authorities did not identify any male victims during the reporting period. The government spent approximately 1.6 million pataca ($200,000) on victim protection services and prevention programs across multiple government agencies, including allocations to NGOs for service provision at shelters, compared to 1.5 million pataca ($187,500) allocated in 2015. The government allocated an additional 39,700 patacas ($4,960) to an international organization to provide services to foreign victims of trafficking. Authorities had a formal victim identification process, operational referral process, and standardized screening questionnaire that guided law enforcement, immigration, and social services personnel to screen 1,132 individuals vulnerable to trafficking. Authorities sustained an existing partnership with local NGOs to provide interpreters to assist in interviewing foreign trafficking victims and to operate a 24-hour general hotline that could be used by trafficking victims. Authorities encouraged victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking crimes by providing temporary shelter and assistance, but reported difficulty persuading victims to cooperate and therefore courts generally accepted a written statement in lieu of oral testimony. A new law allowing the government to pay workers’ salaries in advance while they pursue legal cases against their employers came into force during the reporting period. Authorities reported that Macau law provides trafficking victims with permanent residency as a legal alternative to removal to countries in which they would face retribution or hardship, and authorities reported a policy allowing foreign victims to reside and work in Macau during criminal proceedings against their traffickers; authorities did not report providing any trafficking victims these immigration reliefs during the reporting period. The legal system allows for civil remedies, but no victim was known to have pursued this option in 2016.
Authorities maintained efforts to prevent forced labor and sex trafficking. The interagency Human Trafficking Deterrent Measures Concern Committee, led by the security bureau, coordinated Macau’s anti-trafficking efforts. The labor affairs bureau (LAB) and law enforcement agencies continued to disseminate thousands of leaflets, pamphlets, video clips, radio and television advertisements, and posters to raise awareness of labor trafficking in eight different languages. Authorities ran trafficking awareness videos at all border checkpoints. Authorities continued a trafficking awareness education project in local schools, held seminars with foreign consulates general and NGOs regarding labor rights for foreign domestic workers, and held 112 seminars for approximately 13,000 migrant construction workers. The government registered 2,713 labor dispute cases involving nearly 6,000 workers, most of whom were non-residents; the government found 56 percent of these complaints were substantiated, and approved 89 out of 93 applications for claims against their employers; it was unclear how many of these cases were related to human trafficking crimes. Authorities conducted 58 inspections on the premises of six casinos with gaming licenses and inspected construction sites and 132 employment agencies for labor trafficking, resulting in the investigation of five complaints of overcharging by employment agencies. Despite these efforts, the government did not identify any labor trafficking victims. The government introduced draft legislation that seeks to increase regulatory requirements for employment agencies and clarify the usage of recruitment fees. The government continued to work with local hotels and casinos to promote awareness among hotel staff of trafficking crimes and utilize a mechanism that required hotel employees to immediately report to police any suspected case of trafficking. The government reported it enforced regulations preventing individuals under the age of 21 from entering a casino. The government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, including sex tourism. Authorities did not report any investigations or prosecutions for child sex tourism.
As reported over the past five years, Macau is primarily a destination and, to a much lesser extent, a transit territory for women and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Sex trafficking victims originate primarily from mainland China; many are from inland Chinese provinces and travel to the border province of Guangdong in search of more lucrative employment. Some are from Asia, Russia, Africa, and South America. Many trafficking victims respond to false advertisements for jobs, including in casinos in Macau, but upon arrival are forced into prostitution. Traffickers sometimes confine victims in massage parlors and illegal brothels, where they are closely monitored, threatened with violence, forced to work long hours, and have their identity documents confiscated. Minors are reportedly subjected to sex trafficking in connection with the gambling and entertainment industry in Macau. Migrant construction and domestic workers may be vulnerable to labor exploitation. Some brokers who bring foreign men and women to Macau to renew work visas to other countries restrict these workers’ movements and withhold their passports in conditions indicative of debt bondage and forced labor.