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MACAU (Tier 3)

The Government of the Macau Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Macau remained on Tier 3.  Despite the lack of significant efforts, the government took some steps to address trafficking, including investigating five suspected cases of Macau residents recruited by traffickers using cyber scam operations in Southeast Asia, training police officers on anti-trafficking efforts, and initiating one prosecution.  However, the government did not adequately report proactively screening at-risk populations, such as individuals in commercial sex, for trafficking indicators; and for the fourth consecutive year, the government did not identify or provide services to any victims.  The government has not convicted a trafficker since 2019 and has never identified a victim of forced labor exploited in Macau.

  • Significantly increase proactive victim identification, especially among vulnerable populations such as migrant workers and persons in commercial sex.
  • Significantly increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict sex and labor traffickers, including those operating in casinos and other entertainment establishments, and seek adequate penalties for convicted traffickers, which should include significant prison terms.
  • Ensure victims are referred to and receive protective services.
  • Provide anti-trafficking training to relevant government personnel, including to prosecutors and judges on the use of the trafficking law, ensuring an understanding that a victim’s initial consent is not seen as evidence that trafficking did not occur.
  • Develop, approve, and implement an updated anti-trafficking action plan.
  • Increase efforts to screen for and identify labor trafficking victims and male victims, including by improving victim-centered screening practices.
  • Amend the labor law to include protections for foreign domestic workers.
  • Take steps to eliminate recruitment or placement fees charged to workers by employment agencies in Macau and in their countries of origin, including by ensuring any recruitment fees are paid by employers and coordinating with migrant workers’ countries of origin.

The government maintained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts.  Article 153-A of the penal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of three to 20 years’ imprisonment, depending on the age of the victim.  These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.

According to media reports, police investigated five potential trafficking cases in 2022, an increase compared with one investigation in 2021.  These investigations related to the suspected trafficking of Macau residents by online scamming operations in Southeast Asia.  A government report indicated authorities initiated one prosecution, representing the first trafficking prosecution since 2018, as well as six prosecutions for “manipulating others into prostitution;” however, it was unclear if these cases involved human trafficking as defined by international law.  The government has not convicted a trafficker since 2019.

Officials reportedly believed a victims’ initial consent or “voluntary association” with a trafficker was sufficient evidence to prove a trafficking crime did not occur, which sometimes led to authorities pursuing trafficking cases as other crimes and weakened victim identification efforts.  The police force carried out an anti-trafficking training for senior level officers in April 2022.  Authorities did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of officials complicit in trafficking crimes; however, authorities arrested two prison guards for suspected involvement in a commercial sex syndicate, as well as a gaming official for allegedly operating a website used to facilitate commercial sex acts.

The government maintained inadequate protection efforts.  Authorities did not report identifying or providing services to any victims for the fifth consecutive year and the government has never identified labor trafficking victims exploited in Macau.  However, reportedly out of concern they were at-risk of trafficking, the police prevented three Macau residents suspected of being recruited by traffickers operating online scamming rings from travelling to countries in Southeast Asia.  Authorities had formal victim identification procedures, an operational referral process, and standardized screening questionnaires that could guide law enforcement, immigration, and social services personnel to screen individuals vulnerable to trafficking, including persons in commercial sex and migrant workers; however, the government did not report implementing these procedures during the reporting period.  For example, despite media reports indicating the government conducted numerous law enforcement actions against suspected commercial sex operations, including arresting individuals in commercial sex, it did not report screening these individuals for indicators of trafficking and did not identify any sex trafficking victims.  Due to this lack of proactive screening efforts, authorities likely detained or arrested some unidentified trafficking victims.

The government’s victim referral process guided authorities to refer child victims to two separate government-funded NGOs, which were designated to assist victims depending on their country of origin; however, authorities did not refer any victims to either shelter during the reporting period.  The social welfare bureau designated shelters for adult trafficking victims, and made medical care, financial assistance, counseling, legal assistance, and other services available for identified victims, but it did not report providing these services to any victims.  The law permitted victims to seek compensation through civil courts or to obtain restitution in criminal proceedings, but the government did not report any victims receiving restitution or compensation.  The government did not report how much it allocated for victim protection services.  The law permitted migrant victims to remain in Macau temporarily, and seek employment while authorities pursued cases against traffickers.  In cases in which a victim faced retribution or hardship in their home country, authorities reported a policy allowed for permanent residency on the basis of “well-founded humanitarian reasons,” although the government did not report whether any victims benefited from this policy.

The government maintained minimal efforts to prevent trafficking.  The interagency Human Trafficking Deterrent Measures Concern Committee, led by the security bureau, coordinated Macau’s anti-trafficking efforts, but the government did not report if the committee met or how much it allocated for its activities.  Authorities held a press conference to raise awareness among Macau residents of fraudulent recruitment by traffickers associated with forced labor in cyber scam operations in Southeast Asia.  In previous years, the government reported disseminating television commercials, radio broadcasts, and online videos, as well as pamphlets and posters in several different languages to raise awareness of trafficking; however, it did not report if these efforts continued.  The government did not report holding labor rights seminars for workers in high-risk industries during the reporting period, which it had in previous years.  The government operated and publicized a trafficking hotline, as well as a hotline for reporting labor exploitation, for the public and potential victims to seek assistance, but did not report initiating any investigations or identifying any victims based on calls to the hotlines.  Standard labor laws did not apply to domestic workers, and while there was a required minimum income threshold for employers to be able to sustain at least a 3,000 patacas ($375) monthly wage, there was no minimum wage for foreign domestic workers, a situation which may have increased their vulnerability to trafficking.  Macau law limited the amount of fees employment agencies could charge migrant workers to 50 percent of the first months’ salary and prohibited the withholding of workers’ identity documents or other personal belongings.  Violations were subject to a fine of 20,000 to 50,000 patacas ($2,503-$6,258) and license revocation; however, the government did not report identifying any violations.  The government did not report how many labor dispute cases it adjudicated in 2022 (1,758 adjudicated in 2021), nor how many labor inspections it conducted overall at at-risk locations, such as employment agencies.  The government reported through the media that it conducted 91 inspections on 55 construction sites and followed up on an unspecified number of disputes; however, it did not report screening for or identifying any trafficking victims.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit foreign victims in Macau, and traffickers may exploit victims from Macau abroad.  Traffickers recruit victims, primarily from mainland PRC, Russia, and Southeast Asia, using false advertisements for jobs such as singing and modeling, or jobs in casinos in Macau.  Adult and child victims are forced into commercial sex in massage parlors, illegal brothels, nightclubs, entertainment establishments in casinos, hotels, and private homes where they are closely monitored, threatened with violence, forced to work long hours, and sometimes have their identity documents confiscated.  Casinos and other entertainment establishments reportedly allow staff to partner with criminal networks to allow illegal commercial sex activities within their establishments, which likely facilitated sex trafficking.  The government’s pandemic-related mitigation efforts, including travel and quarantine restrictions, disrupted Macau’s tourism industry and as a result, illegal activities in casinos, including commercial sex, declined compared with previous years.  Migrant construction and domestic workers, primarily from mainland PRC, Indonesia, and the Philippines, may be vulnerable to forced labor in Macau.  Some employment agencies overcharge workers recruitment fees of approximately two to three months’ salary, and withhold workers’ passports, potentially leading to debt-based coercion.  Some brokers bring migrant workers to Macau to renew work visas for other countries while restricting their movement and withholding their passports.  Traffickers operating cyber scam operations in Southeast Asia may recruit and subsequently exploit Macau victims in forced labor.

U.S. Department of State

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