• Kyodo

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The United States on Tuesday listed China as among the worst countries for human trafficking while Japan remained in Tier 2, the second-highest classification on the four-tier list.

In the 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report, the State Department dropped China from the Tier 2 Watch List to Tier 3, putting it on a par with nations including Russia, North Korea, Syria and Iran.

China’s downgrading is expected to upset the leadership in Beijing, with President Donald Trump’s administration having so far refrained from taking actions that could provoke what it sees as a key partner in reining in North Korea’s nuclear arms and missile programs.

The report, meanwhile, said that Japan “is making significant efforts” to fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.

One such effort involved the Diet passage in November last year of legislation enhancing oversight of the Technical Intern Training Program, a government-run program designed to foster basic technical skills among foreign workers.

The report, however, expressed concern about abuses of the program, saying some of the workers under the program “continued to experience conditions of forced labor. Many technical interns are Chinese, Cambodian and Vietnamese citizens.”

The report also pointed out that the treatment of some child sex trafficking victims as “delinquents rather than victims” left them without proper services and the crimes of their traffickers went uninvestigated and unpunished.

The phenomenon of enjo kosai, or so-called compensated dating, and variants of the “JK business,” which offers services by joshi kosei, or female high school students, continues to facilitate the sex trafficking of Japanese children, according to the report.

On China, the State Department concluded that the nation “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so.”

It quoted human rights organizations and media reports as saying officials in Xinjiang, a northwestern Chinese province that is home to a largely Muslim Uyghur population, “coerced Uygur men and women to participate in forced labor in and outside the province, despite the local government issuing a notice in early 2017 that the practice had been completely abolished.”

Chinese authorities continued to forcibly repatriate North Koreans, where they faced severe punishment including forced labor and execution, without screening them for indicators of trafficking, the report said.

Citing media and a 2015 U.N. report, the State Department report said North Korean citizens are subjected to forced labor in China by the North Korean government, possibly with the knowledge of Chinese nationals.

“Women and children from neighboring Asian countries, Africa and the Americas are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking in China,” the U.S. report said.

Other members of the Group of Seven industrialized nations — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and the United States — were among Tier 1 countries.

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