Action stepped up as Chinese reject forced prostitution claims

Updated May 11, 2019

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Chinese Embassy says a probe found no evidence to claims that women married to Chinese men are forced into prostitution. — AFP/File
Chinese Embassy says a probe found no evidence to claims that women married to Chinese men are forced into prostitution. — AFP/File

RAWALPINDI / ISLAMABAD: As the FIA stopped two Chinese men and three Pakistani women from boarding a flight to China at the Islamabad Airport on Friday for their alleged involvement in bride trafficking, the Chinese Embassy said a joint Pak-China probe had found no evidence to claims that the women married to Chinese men were being forced into prostitution or organ sale.

The Federal Investigation Agency’s immigration staff took into custody the two couples and a single woman on charges of bride trafficking and shifted them to the FIA’s anti-human trafficking cell for interrogation.

According to sources, Chinese authorities had held two meetings with Minister for Interior retired Brig Ijaz Ahmad Shah — one on Thursday and the other on Friday — and expressed their displeasure over publicising the arrest of Chinese nationals in connection with the alleged bride trafficking.

The Chinese authorities made it clear to the minister that if someone individually had done anything wrong that should not be publicised by holding press conferences, because that is giving a bad name to their country.

Besides, the Chinese Embassy in a statement issued on Friday said that Chinese authorities had jointly investigated with their Pakistani counterparts the allegations of Pakistani women married off to Chinese men being forced into prostitution or organ sale, but found no evidence.

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“The Ministry of Public Security of China sent a task force to Pakistan to carry out law enforcement cooperation with the Pakistani side,” the embassy said, adding the Chinese ministry found that there was “no forced prostitution or sale of human organs for those Pakistani women who stay in China after marriage with Chinese”.

The findings cited by the embassy appear to be at odds with an FIA press statement, which had detailed how Pakistani women were fraudulently married off to the Chinese and later trafficked into prostitution in China.

The Chinese investigations, however, appear to be ongoing as the embassy noted: “Relevant cases are now under investigation”.

The sources said that all the detained Chinese nationals had been visiting Pakistan on “business visas on arrival” and therefore none of them was illegal immigrant. After arriving here, they contact locals to allegedly lure young Pakistani girls into marriages.

They pointed out that if anyone from South Asian countries is arrested in China, the authorities there don’t publicise his/her nationality. They only mention that a South Asian has been arrested.

According to sources, after the Chinese authorities expressed their displeasure over publicising the arrest of Chinese nationals, the FIA has been verbally asked to slow down the crackdown and avoid arrests unless any girl came to them to lodge a complaint.

On Friday, the FIA staff held two couples and one Pakistani woman while they were passing through the immigration process at the Islamabad airport for travelling to China through Air China flight CZ6008.

Zheng Zhili along with Samreen Fatima, a resident of Lahore, and Guo Wenchao along with Rabia, a resident of Rawalpindi, and Masooma Kalsoom, a resident of Lahore were detained after they failed to satisfy the FIA for the purpose of travelling to China.

Ms Kalsoom said in her statement recorded with the FIA that she was travelling to China to join her husband there.

The embassy statement issued on Friday — a second by the embassy in nearly a month — was issued amid growing media reports of Pakistani women being duped into marriages with the Chinese and the law enforcement action by Pakistani authorities against people and marriage bureaus involved in contracting such fraud matrimony.

In a latest report, the FIA arrested three Chinese and their Pakistani accomplices on charges of fake marriages. Nearly two dozen Chinese have been arrested so far in different Pakistani cities.

The last statement was issued on April 13 in which the Chinese embassy had acknowledged that some “unlawful matchmaking centres” were deceiving Pakistani and Chinese youth by brokering cross-national marriages for “illegal profits”.

The latest statement backed Pakistani law enforcement action against the marriage bureaus concerned. “If any organisation or individual commits a crime in Pakistan under the banner of the cross-border marriage, China supports the Pakistani side to crack down on it according to Pakistani laws,” it said.

The embassy pledged to continue cooperation with Pakistan on the issue. “China will further strengthen cooperation with the law enforcement agencies in Pakistan, to effectively combat crime, so as to protect the legitimate rights and interests of the two peoples, and jointly safeguard China-Pakistan friendly relations,” it said, adding that “a few criminals” cannot be allowed to undermine the friendship between the two countries and “hurt the friendly feelings between two peoples”.

The embassy asked the media to be “objective and fair” in reporting on the issue and asked the people to reject rumours.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2019