The rescue of Vietnamese human trafficking victims in China

The Blue Dragon organization helps to bring home up to eight women within a month and gets one or two desperate pleas for help each day from Vietnamese women who have been trafficked to China.

The Blue Dragon organization helps to bring home up to eight women within a month and gets one or two desperate pleas for help each day from Vietnamese women who have been trafficked to China.

Le Thi Vu, một cô gái Việt Nam được giải cứu khỏi nhà thổ ở Trung Quốc. Ảnh: AFP.

Le Thi Vu, a Vietnamese woman who was rescued from a brothel in China Photo: AFP

In a video capturing a rescue operation carried out by The Blue Dragon members, two Vietnamese girls sprint from a hair salon into a car waiting outside which aimed to bring them back safely to Vietnam, according to AFP.

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation (Blue Dragon) is a charitable non – government organization based in Hanoi, Vietnam. Its mission is to help children escape from crisis by offering a range of services including rescue from slavery, shelter, education and employment. This organization also provide assistance in rescue and rehabilitation for Vietnamese women who are trafficked to China, a country where serious gender imbalance has led to the widening of women’s trafficking networks.

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

"No one wants their business to be broken," says a rescuer from Blue Dragon, a Hanoi-based non-profit organization. Blue Dragon has helped bring about 400 trafficked women and girls back home from China since 2007. They are among tens of thousands of women and girls who were trafficked to China from impoverished pockets of Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos. They are tricked, lured or kidnapped and sold as wives and prostitutes across the border.

Rescues are a complicated and all-consuming job, says 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 couldn't walk away," the rescuer says.

"Imagine your child didn’t come home at dinner time. What would you do?"

- 'Please help me' - Victims reach out via Chinese messaging services like We Chat and QQ or call the non-profit organization -- if they can get their hands on a phone."I was trafficked to China please help me," reads one text. "I'm praying for a miracle," says another. But most girls -- especially sex workers -- are barred from contact with the outside world; an escaped girl means thousands of dollars lost for traffickers. Each Blue Dragon rescue can take months to plan and execute, at high risk. The girl normally will fake illness and checked into 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.

Vu hiện theo học một khóa đà o tạo nhân viên spa. Ảnh: AFP.

Vu is currently attending a spa training course. Photo: AFP.

Blue Dragon helps to bring home up to eight people a month and gets one or two desperate pleas for help each day. The organization keeps photos and videos of successful missions -- weeping mothers reunited with daughters, teenage girls grinning widely after being saved -- morale-boosting reminders of their work.

"If we don't get her out of there she's stuck, she's in slavery," said Michael Brosowski, the Australian founder of Blue Dragon, which also rescues and rehabilitates street kids, sexual abuse victims and other kids in crisis.

Le Thi Vu knew trying to escape could mean being beaten or even killed by her pimp, who kept her in a brothel for four months in China's Guangxi province where she was forced to sleep with up to 12 men a day.

Traumatized and fearing pregnancy, she secretly bought a phone and got in touch with her family who contacted Blue Dragon.

She had no idea of her location and could not read the Chinese street name outside, but Vu -- whose name has been changed -- found a phone number for a hotel across the street and relayed it.

Two months later one morning, the rescue unfolded. She went into a hair salon next to the brothel with another Vietnamese woman and suddenly made a dash for the waiting car, praying not to get caught. Within days the pair was back in Vietnam.

"I felt like I had come back to life again, I was so happy to see my mother," said Vu, now 21 and training to be a spa technician.

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-year imprisonment. Vu's traffickers -- her friend and her friend's boyfriend -- were both jailed.

Nguyen Trang (name has been changed) was saved last year. She was forced to marry to a poor Chinese laborer in Hunan province. One early morning, she slipped out of the house to meet with a Blue Dragon contact, who guided her onto a bus bound for the border.

She was offered $2,100 not to testify against her trafficker – her ex- boyfriend who sold her to brokers in China. But Trang refused to do so. As a result, in August her ex- boyfriend was put in jail for seven years.

Today, this 20-year-old girl works in a Hanoi restaurant and she has tried her best to forget the past- the dark chapter of her life. "In Hunan my spirit was hurt... now I can live again," she says./.

( Translated by Hue Minh )

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