SOUTH Asian men are being trafficked into Hong Kong through arranged marriages and then forced into indentured labour by their bride’s family, lawyers and outreach workers representing the community in the special administrative region have alleged.
There are scores of such cases identified so far, according to a report by South China Morning Post, and the men are typically tricked into believing they would be marrying into first-world lives that would allow them to support their relatives back home.
But once the men are brought to Hong Kong, they are allegedly subjected to isolation as well as physical and verbal punishment at the hands of their in-laws in order to get them to obey.
Most of these incidents go unreported due to a profound and culturally ingrained sense of shame since these men come from patriarchal countries, the report says.
The SCMP spoke to Richard Aziz Butt, a “sought-after immigration consultant in the South East Asian community”, who said that since 1997, over 100 South Asian men have been trafficked to Hong Kong under the guise of marriage.
Most of the men, the report adds, hail from Pakistan and India, although there are some who come from other parts of South Asia, like Bangladesh and Nepal.
In order to keep it under wraps, the in-laws will have the groom’s visas processed without a consultant or a lawyer.
“I believe 20 percent of the husbands are slave grooms,” said Butt.
“They are brought to Hong Kong to work for the wife and the family,” he added.
Cases of forced labour are not uncommon in Hong Kong and domestic workers are often subject to unfair working conditions.
There are over 350,000 foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong. The government has been taking steps to improve worker’s rights but progress has been slow.
In 2016, the Justice Centre Hong Kong, a non-profit human rights organisation that deals with forced migrants, published a study detailing the prevalence of forced labour and human trafficking among migrant domestic workers in the city state.
The report titled “Coming Clean” showed that exploitation in the island nation was more widespread than thought.
The Justice Centre also claimed the Hong Kong government insists there is no evidence that it is a “source, destination or transit area for human trafficking.”
The study found that one in seven migrant domestic workers working as part of forced labour in Hong Kong was trafficked into it.