Antislavery law proposed

Reuters KUALA LUMPUR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — A Hong Kong lawmaker vowed Wednesday to launch a renewed push for an antislavery law, warning there was “no room” for delay as thousands of victims are trapped in the city.

There is little support within the Hong Kong government for a new slavery law but lawmaker Dennis Kwok said he had been lobbying international groups, including the United Nations, to put pressure on city officials.

Kwok, who has spearheaded a campaign for a new law since 2017, said he and another lawmaker would table a private member’s bill modelled on Britain’s Modern Slavery Act to the city’s legislature by the middle of this year.

“There is really no room for any further delay,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Hong Kong.

“There are countless of victims out there who are being subjected to human trafficking and modern slavery because we have a loophole here in Hong Kong. We need to close that loophole,” Kwok added.

Campaigners say forced labor and exploitation are rife in the sex industry and among 370,000 foreign domestic workers in the former British colony, which maintains a laissez-faire economic system after its return to Chinese rule in 1997.

Hong Kong’s government said its current framework is “comprehensive” and “effective” in tackling trafficking crimes, according to a statement it posted on the legislative council’s website in June last year.

But Kwok said traffickers in the region continue to use easy access to Hong Kong’s financial system to run their operations, and the government must clamp down on illegal profits flowing through the city.

Some $150 billion in profits are generated by the global slave trade each year and affect at least 40 million people worldwide, U.N. estimates show.

Recommendations in Kwok’s bill include life sentences for traffickers, compelling firms to report whether their supply chains are free from slavery, and giving law enforcement officers wider investigation power.Speech

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