The United States on Tuesday slammed China for its record on human trafficking as tensions between Washington and Beijing over the North Korean impasse are heating up.
For only the second time in the last 12 years, the State Department’s annual report on human trafficking gave China the worst possible ranking, meaning that it doesn’t meet international standards for preventing trafficking and isn’t taking steps to improve. In the report, released Tuesday, the State Department downgraded China from the Tier 2 “watch list” to a Tier 3 ranking, putting China below countries such as Afghanistan, Burma, and Qatar.
With its new designation, China could be subject to new sanctions and diplomatic restrictions under U.S. law, which could further exacerbate tense relations with Washington, though sanctions don’t impact trade or humanitarian foreign assistance and are often waived. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pinned some of the blame for the demotion on Beijing’s close relationship with North Korea.
China was downgraded “in part because it has not taken serious steps to end its own complicity in trafficking, including forced laborers from North Korea that are located in China,” said Tillerson, speaking Tuesday at a ceremony presenting the new report alongside White House advisor Ivanka Trump.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chair of the Congressional Executive Commission on China, lauded the move. “China was given a pass” in the past, Smith said in a statement released Monday. “Hopefully the new tier ranking coupled with robust diplomacy … will lead to systemic reforms,” he said.
Beijing, predictably, was incensed. “No country has the right to speak irresponsibly on China’s domestic affairs,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeman Lu Kang at a press briefing on Tuesday. “China’s government’s commitment to fighting human trafficking has been resolute and our results have been obvious for everyone to see.”
The Trump administration has been…