The Relentless fight against human trafficking in East Asia, with Dr. Katherine Welch

Baht is the unit of Thai currencyThailand is a fantastic place to be a tourist, but even the most blissfully ignorant will stumble upon evidence of the (very) dark side of Thailand’s tourism industry. We happened upon these “Boys are not baht” stickers on our way to Chiang Mai’s Chinatown, after attending our NGO’s annual conference just north of the city. Turns out those stickers are indirectly connected Dr. Katherine Welch, founder of Relentless, one of the presenters at our just-concluded conference.

Katherine lived several years in China, learned the language, taught pediatric medicine to Chinese doctors with a focus on abandoned children, and fought human trafficking in her off hours. She’s recently relocated to Chiang Mai, Thailand where she serves full time against one of the worst injustices in our world. Along with her advocacy and research, she equips anti-trafficking groups with holistic health knowledge and training to better serve the victims of human trafficking.

She’ll tell more about herself and what she does through Relentless in her upcoming guest post. For now as an intro to human trafficking in China, I’ll share some info and links, many of which come from her presentation.


You can check out the Relentless website and Relentless on Facebook.

Human trafficking facts (links go to related news items):

  1. Most at-risk to be trafficked in China: rural migrants, the disabled, refugees, infants and children.
  2. Most common forms of human trafficking in China: sex trafficking, child trafficking (selling) and kidnapping (stealing), and forced brides — the One Child Policy being a major factor. The amount of trafficking related to re-education through labour is unknown.
  3. The Trafficking in Human Persons 2012 Report (scroll down to find China) lists China on the Tier Two Watch List rather than Tier Three, surely for political reasons.
  4. China is a source, transit, and destination country for human trafficking.
  5. Traffickers use “visa circuits” to keep trafficked people’s presence legal: from China to Malaysia to Thailand to China.
  6. “Orphanage tourism” — Sometimes helping hurts, despite good intentions.
  7. “Trafficking” is difficult to define; different countries use different definitions and calculations.
  8. Solid trafficking stats are hard to come by due to differing definitions and political interference.
  9. “Traffickers fish in the stream of migration”.
  10. Restricting migration makes migrants more vulnerable; they will migrate regardless, but with less legal protections.
  11. Poverty is not the cause of human trafficking but one of several potential major factors, which are different for different people groups.

Here’s a short Chinese anti-sex-trafficking video, with English subtitles:

Trafficking stories highlighting police successes are now routine in Chinese media:

And of course there are more in the international press and blogosphere:

Child Trafficking & the One Child Policy:

Our American boss and NGO associate formerly ran a China adoption service but quit after things felt too sketchy for him. We’ve blogged on this before:

Forced Marriages:

Sex Trafficking:

Labour Trafficking:

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