Pakistan cracks down on Chinese trafficking of women

Raids launched after several Pakistani women allegedly lured into fake marriages and forced into prostitution.

    Pakistan cracks down on Chinese trafficking of women
    The arrests were made in various cities of the central province of Punjab [Aamir Qureshi/AFP]

    Pakistan has arrested dozens of Chinese men and their agents in a crackdown this week against traffickers targeting young women, mostly belonging to the country's Christian minority. 

    The arrests were made in various cities of the central province of Punjab since Sunday, Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) said on Thursday.

    Half a dozen women between the ages of 17 and 25 were also rescued during the operation in Faisalabad, Lahore, Rawalpindi and the capital, Islamabad. 

    The operation was launched after several Pakistani women were allegedly lured by the prospect of marriage with Chinese men, trafficked to China, and forced to become prostitutes there.

    Most of the women were rescued by Chinese authorities after the Pakistani embassy in Beijing alerted officials about the trafficking, FIA's Saeed Abbasi told dpa news agency.

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    "Chinese gangs have been working in a very organised way," said FIA's Tariq Rustam Chohan, who was leading the action in the eastern city of Lahore.

    Chohan said at least 30 Chinese citizens and more than a dozen of their local agents had been arrested in Lahore alone.

    The Chinese embassy said last month Beijing is cooperating with Pakistan to crack down on unlawful matchmaking centres, saying "both Chinese and Pakistani youths are victims of these illegal agents".

    Human Rights Watch has called on China and Pakistan to take action to end bride trafficking, warning in an April 26 statement of "increasing evidence that Pakistani women and girls are at risk of sexual slavery in China".

    Last month, a Pakistani news channel spotlighted growing concerns about the issue in Pakistan, claiming it had gained entry to a matchmaking centre in Lahore where poor families would marry their daughters off to Chinese nationals in exchange for money and a visa.

    According to an Associated Press report, brokers are aggressively seeking out women for Chinese men, sometimes even cruising outside churches to ask for potential brides.

    It said they are being helped by Christian clergy paid to target impoverished parents in their congregation with promises of wealth in exchange for their daughters.

    Parents receive several thousand dollars and are told their new sons-in-law are wealthy Christian converts. 

    There is a growing population of Chinese citizens in Pakistan, fuelled by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a $60bn project that is seeing Chinese companies build roads, power plants and industrial zones across the South Asian country.

    SOURCE: News agencies