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Pakistan: More than 600 poor girls and women were sold as brides to Chinese men by trafficking schemes since 2018, Associated Press reports quoting Pakistani investigators. Pakistan's government has pressured investigators and witnesses to halt cases which could have damaged relations with China, as its ally pours huge amounts of investment into the country.
The biggest case against traffickers has fallen apart. In October, a court in Faisalabad acquitted 31 Chinese nationals charged in connection with trafficking. Several of the women who had initially been interviewed by police refused to testify because they were either threatened or bribed into silence, according to a court official and a police investigator familiar with the case.
A statement from China's Foreign Ministry said it was unaware of the list.
“The two governments of China and Pakistan support the formation of happy families between their people on a voluntary basis in keeping with laws and regulations, while at the same time having zero tolerance for and resolutely fighting against any person engaging in illegal cross-border marriage behavior,” the China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement faxed Monday to AP’s Beijing bureau.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared reprisals.
"No one is doing anything to help these girls," one of the officials said. "The whole racket is continuing, and it is growing. Why? Because they know they can get away with it. The authorities won't follow through; everyone is being pressured to not investigate. Trafficking is increasing now."
He said he was speaking out "because I have to live with myself. Where is our humanity?"
Many of the brides who are forcibly taken to China are then isolated and abused or forced into prostitution, often contacting home and pleading to be brought back.
The Associated Press reports that Christians are targeted the most because they are one of the poorest communities in Muslim-majority Pakistan. The trafficking rings are made up of Chinese and Pakistani middlemen and include Christian ministers, mostly from small evangelical churches, who get bribes to urge their flock to sell their daughters. Investigators have also turned up at least one Muslim cleric running a marriage bureau from his madrassa, or religious school.
The rights groups point out and warn that China's one-child policy that ended in 2015 has created a lucrative domestic demand for foreign brides.
Parents' preference for boys during the 34 years the policy was enforced led to the abortion of millions of girls. There are now roughly 34 million more men than women, leaving many poor young men with dire marriage prospects. Similar trafficking networks have arisen in many of China's neighbors to satisfy the demand for young women.
Beside Pakistan, other countries such as Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, North Korea and Vietnam have “all have become source countries for a brutal business.”