Year-round Festival Series 26 – World Day Against Trafficking in Persons – Contemporary slavery?

World Day against Trafficking in Persons is celebrated on 30 July every year. The criminal exploitation of women, children and men for a variety of purposes, including sexual exploitation and forced labour, is known as human trafficking. Victims are all over the world. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has collected about 225,000 victims of human trafficking worldwide, with women and children being the most common victims.

As a human being, how can you think of buying and selling another human being like a commodity? Human trafficking is one of the most cold-blooded and heartless crimes committed by human beings. The most vulnerable victims are women and children. Traffickers often use violence, blackmail, emotional manipulation, false employee management companies, withholding of official identity documents, and false education and job offers to lure their victims into a trap.

The blue heart symbol of the Day against Human Trafficking represents solidarity with the victims and symbolises the ruthlessness of those who perpetrate human trafficking. It is also a sign of the UN’s determination to fight human trafficking through the same blue colour as in the UN logo.

Human trafficking is a serious issue, far removed from our daily lives. Or, we may ask, what’s the point of knowing about it?

Red indians, Black slaves, and Chinese labourers

The mass trafficking of human beings in history began when Europeans explored the Americas and transported Indians back to Europe to be used as slaves. When the colonies of the European countries were expanding, the colonial invaders went to Africa and plundered the Africans as slaves. Although Britain announced the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, the slaves were replaced by indentured labourers. The Chinese began to be targeted for labour.

In the 19th century, Hong Kong and Macao recruited a large number of Chinese people to work as labourers in other places.

At that time, China was poor and the people were living in hardship. Those who had the strength to do so, either knowingly or unknowingly, sold themselves as labourers. After signing the contract of sale, they became contract labourers. After receiving the settlement fee, they lost their freedom and were transported to other countries by ship together with other labourers. These human trafficking activities brought enormous wealth to the colonial invaders and Hong Kong, and had far-reaching effects on the future economic development of Hong Kong, especially in stimulating the shipping and banking industries.

Foreign domestic helpers in our existing society are also contracted to become “slaves” of the present generation. Will we repeat the mistakes of the Chinese labour trade and allow capitalism to exploit them cruelly, adding to the misery of those who go abroad to earn a living?


#YearroundFestivalSeries #WorldDayAgainstTraffickinginPersons


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◢ Elva Lai enjoys creating art, reading, travelling, hiking and making a cup of coffee in the morning. She received her education in Singapore, the United States, Germany and Hong Kong.

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