The U.S. State Department put China on its global list of the worst offenders in human trafficking and forced labor on Tuesday, June 27.
“China was downgraded to Tier 3 status in this year’s report, in part because it has not taken serious steps to end its own complicity in trafficking, including forced laborers from North Korea that are located in China,” said U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson.
Tier 3 countries are at the bottom of the list in efforts to combat human trafficking.
“The Government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so,” reads the report.
The move comes after President Donald Trump tweeted on June 20 what seemed to mark a shift in the U.S. approach to North Korea and possibly China.
“While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!” Trump tweeted.
Trump’s warming to China, after a campaign that frequently criticized the regime’s mercantilist trade practices, was widely read as part of an effort to get China to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
China is North Korea’s major trading partner and international ally.
Trump, however, has grown increasingly frustrated over China’s inaction on North Korea and bilateral trade issues and is now considering possible trade actions against Beijing, three senior administration officials told Reuters.
The report said China’s enforcement efforts seemed to have weakened over the past year with fewer convicted sex and labor traffickers than in the previous year.
Meanwhile, the Chinese regime had forcibly repatriated North Koreans without screening them for indicators of trafficking, and handled most forced labor cases as administrative issues rather than criminal prosecutions, read the report.