WASHINGTON •President Donald Trump's administration hit China yesterday over its rights record, placing the country alongside Sudan and North Korea on a list of the world's worst human trafficking offenders.
The US State Department downgraded China to Tier 3, the lowest level in its annual Trafficking In Persons Report, saying Beijing is doing little to combat trafficking or protect victims, reported Agence France-Presse.
It pointed to ethnic Uighurs, a Muslim minority in China's west, being coerced into forced labour, and to Beijing's wholesale repatriation of North Koreans without checking to see if they were trafficking victims.
It marked the first significant rebuke of China's rights record by the Trump administration, which has avoided harsh criticism of Beijing as the President seeks to establish a working relationship over deep trade differences and North Korea's nuclear programme.
The report also placed the Congo Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea and Mali among 23 countries with the worst human trafficking records. Those listed include Russia, Iran, Syria and Venezuela.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement: "Human trafficking is one of the most tragic human rights issues of our time. It splinters families, distorts global markets, undermines the rule of law, and spurs other transnational criminal activity."
Singapore remained on Tier 2. The report said the Singapore government "is making significant efforts" to eliminate trafficking by prosecuting and convicting more traffickers, and has provided protective services to victims, including through the distribution of funds to a non-governmental organisation that offered trauma recovery services.