Group's daring rescues in China bringing Vietnam’s sex-slave girls home, Latest World News - The New Paper

Group's daring rescues in China bringing Vietnam’s sex-slave girls home

This article is more than 12 months old

Group helps rescue Mekong women forced into brothels, marriages in China

HANOI Two girls sprint from a hair salon into a car that will lead them back to safety in Vietnam - a snapshot of the daring rescues taking place each month to free women and girls from forced marriages or sex slavery in China.

Filmed on a shaky camera phone, the successful rescue saved the Vietnamese teenagers from a brothel in China, where a huge surplus of males has fuelled the lucrative trade for brides and sex workers.

Bringing them home is dangerous work, pitting rescuers against vengeful husbands, pimps and organised trafficking networks who spin tens of millions of dollars selling women from poor Mekong countries.

"No one wants their business to be broken," said a rescuer from Blue Dragon, a Hanoi-based non-profit.

Blue Dragon has helped bring about 400 trafficked women and girls home from China since 2007.

They are among tens of thousands trafficked into China from impoverished pockets of Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos.

They are tricked, lured or kidnapped and sold across the border, some ending up deep inside the tightly controlled Communist country.

Rescues are a complicated and all-consuming job, said the Blue Dragon rescuer whose identity has been concealed for safety reasons.


The stress is constant and the phone buzzes around the clock.

"But I could not walk away," the rescuer said.

"Imagine your child did not come home at dinner time. What would you do?"

Victims reach out via Chinese messaging services such as WeChat and QQ or call the non-profit - if they can get their hands on a phone.

"I was trafficked to China, please help me," read one text.

"I'm praying for a miracle," said another.

Most girls - especially sex workers - are barred from contact with the outside world; an escaped girl means thousands of dollars lost for traffickers.

With risks high, each rescue can take months to plan and execute.

One girl faked illness and checked into a hospital where she called Blue Dragon rescuers, leading them to a remote corner of China where she had been trafficked as a bride.

Another who had been sold into a brothel secretly used customers' phones to contact rescuers before evading bouncers by escaping via a back door.

Blue Dragon helps to bring home up to eight people a month and gets one or two desperate pleas for help each day.

The organisation keeps photos and videos of successful missions - weeping mothers reunited with daughters, teenage girls grinning widely after being saved - as morale-boosting reminders of its work.

"If we do not get her out of there, she is stuck, she is in slavery," said Mr Michael Brosowski, the Australian founder of Blue Dragon, which also rescues and rehabilitates street kids, sexual abuse victims and other children in crisis.

Rescues have helped Blue Dragon prosecute 76 traffickers over the past five years in Vietnam, where the maximum sentence for selling people outside the country is 20 years.

Said Ms Nguyen Trang, 20, who was saved last year, eight months into a forced marriage: "In Hunan, my spirit hurt... now I can live again."