A new US State Department report released on Tuesday, June 27, on human trafficking downgraded China from Tier 2 to Tier 3 - the poorest ranking of three tiers - indicating that the country fails to meet the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and is not taking meaningful actions to improve. The report cites alleged human rights violations such as forced labor among drug addicts and ethnic minorities, and the forcible repatriation of North Korean refugees despite threats that Pyongyang would punish returnees with prison sentences and forced labor. Meanwhile, the managing director of Humanity United, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending human trafficking, expressed "serious concerns" about this year's report, due to the ''unjustified upgrades'' of Burma, Malaysia, and Qatar, as well as the failure to downgrade Thailand.
The US State Department issues a yearly report on the global state of human trafficking. This year's findings group China along with other Tier 3 countries, including Syria, Iran, Russia, and North Korea. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, and Mali were also downgraded to Tier 3 in this year's report. An estimated 20 million people are victims of human trafficking around the world.
China reacted angrily to the announcement, with a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry criticizing the report as singling out the country unfairly and according to domestic US standards. The downgrade has the potential to further strain relations between the US and China, and the US could choose to restrict certain foreign aid funding in light of the report.