HONG KONG — Chinese authorities have arrested and charged five people with human trafficking in what could be China’s largest case of trafficking of Burmese nationals in recent memory.
Pre-trial detention has been approved for the Burmese and Chinese citizens on Thursday for charges of human trafficking in the southern Chinese manufacturing hub of Dongguan. They are charged with trafficking 200 Burmese workers to work illegally in factories in Guangdong Province.
The arrest came after 36 trafficked Burmese workers handed themselves in at a police station on the outskirts of Guangzhou on Dec. 8, asking to be taken back to Burma.
The Burmese were trafficked in 11 trips to work in Guangdong Province and were sent to work at an electrical appliance factory, a metal factory and a paper factory in Dongguan, according to a report by the local daily Dongguan Times.
The traffickers charged the workers 1,200 yuan (US $192) for the journey and took 3 yuan ($0.50) for every working hour off their salaries, the daily reported without mentioning their monthly salaries. The average monthly income of rural workers in Dongguan stood at 1,900 yuan ($305) last year.
The traffickers sent a first batch of relatives and friends to work at a factory in Huizhou, another manufacturing hub in Guangdong Province around February 2012. In August, they began to send the workers through an agency in Ruili, China’s largest border hub with Burma, in Yunnan Province.
The arrest is by far the largest single bust of such a trafficking ring and points to a rising trend of nationals of neighboring countries seeking work in the world’s second-largest economy.
Yunnan border police deported 5,228 Burmese civilians last year. No earlier figures were reported. Guangxi, China’s border province to Vietnam, arrested 2,606 Vietnamese nationals last year for illegally entering China, an increase of 33 percent compared to 2011.
Human traffickers face prison sentences from two to seven years, according to article 318 of China’s criminal law. Employers are fined up to 100,000 yuan ($16,000) for every illegal immigrant they employ, according to harsher regulations introduced last year.
Under the new regulations, illegal immigrants can be fined up to 10,000 yuan ($1,600) and be detained up to 15 days before being deported.
Some 40,000 Burmese nationals were living in China, according to the last national census conducted in 2010. Burma ranked fourth after South Korea, the US and Japan as country of origin for foreigners living in China.