Two SCMP articles in links and text pasted below in post:

(1) Hong Kong couple’s cross-country effort to stop human-trafficking

Sylvia and Matthew Friedman travelled more than 10,000 miles across the United States to raise awareness on a global issue

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/law-crime/article/2043312/hong-kong-couples-cross-country-effort-stop-human#add-comment

(2) Local Hong Kong people need to join fight to abolish slavery, husband and wife activists say:

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/law-crime/article/2043308/local-hong-kong-people-need-join-fight-abolish-slavery

Local Hong Kong people need to join fight to abolish slavery, husband and wife activists say

Couple who spent 70 days in the US raising awareness about human trafficking call for a change in mindset to recognise problem in the city

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 November, 2016, 7:03am

By Raquel Carvalho

Sylvia and Matthew Friedman, a couple of activists based in Hong Kong who spent 70 days in the US raising awareness about modern-day slavery, say it’s necessary to engage locals in this fight. They also noted that NGOs based in Hong Kong have to change their approach to the government.

“It’s time to have local Chinese people rise up” against human trafficking, said Sylvia, a journalist and co-founder of the 852 Freedom Campaign in Hong Kong, a justice movement to end slavery.

The Hong Kong government has been criticised for not passing laws that effectively protect victims of human trafficking and forced labour. This year, the city’s rating was lowered to the Tier 2 Watch List in the latest Trafficking in Persons report by the United States. However, local authorities have repeatedly denied the problem.

“We have made presentations to 38,000 people, but many of them were English speakers. For the Hong Kong government to perhaps have a better sense of community support for this, we need Cantonese-speaking people to know about this issue,” said Matthew, chief executive officer of Mekong Club. His organisation aims at motivating the private sector to find solutions for the fighting human trafficking in Asia.

The former United Nations officer, who has been based in Asia for more than 25 years, said that modern slavery needed to be explained, as many people still had old concepts in mind.

“If you go to a Chinese group and you say you want to talk about slavery, you shut them down already, because they don’t believe in the concept. So you have to start by saying ‘have you seen this situation?’ That’s what we are calling slavery now,” he said.

His wife Sylvia, a Canadian whose family hails from South Korea, noted that their current aim was to raise awareness and provide training to Cantonese and Putonghua speakers of all ages. “We need to change the mindset of locals. I think that through this grass roots impact, local people can start talk to their own government instead of us – as foreigners – talking to them,” she said.

Matthew, originally from the US, said: “If the movement is going to take off, it’s not going to be because of us. We are the catalysts. We have to invest in local people understanding and accepting responsibility.”

In their opinion, the collaboration among non-governmental organisations as well as between them and the local authorities should be improved. “I think the NGO culture in Hong Kong uses Western methods, but to work with the Hong Kong government it has to be in an honouring way … because that’s the Asian culture,” Sylvia said.

She noted there were many slaves in Hong Kong – particularly sex slaves – “but it’s hidden, it’s hard to find. Criminals don’t want us to find them. This is what we need to do, to find these actual slaves. Our method is to work hand in hand with the government.”

The latest Trafficking in Persons report said that Hong Kong was “primarily a destination, transit, and to a much lesser extent, a source territory for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour”.

The Global Slavery Index, released in June, ranked Hong Kong among the 10 top slave territories in Asia.

“The Hong Kong government is working on this, but they may not advertise or promote what they are doing. I can confidently say that they have brought in certain people to help them to deal with this issue,” Sylvia said.

As a former UN officer, Matthew worked with mainland Chinese leaders to put policies and procedures in place and identify victims. “What’s interesting about China is that the senior-most level really understand what’s needed, but translating that to 1.3 billion people is somewhat of a challenge.”

Talking about the former British colony, “I would generically say that different countries are addressing the problem at different times. Hong Kong, I would describe it perhaps behind some other locations, but we are optimistic that over time there will be more momentum.”

He said “we, collectively as a world, are not making much of a difference. Until we accept this as a collective responsibility, the number of victims we help is going to continue languishing at 0.2 per cent”.

Sylvia and Matthew Friedman travelled more than 10,000 miles across the United States to raise awareness on a global issue

By Racquel Carvalho

For 70 days between June and August, (Sylvia and Matt Friedman) ventured off on what they described as “the road to freedom”, raising awareness of human-trafficking to organisations, schools and churches.

It sounded like a pipe dream at first, but looking back, the couple said the journey was the most rewarding experience they ever had.

“So many people told us it was impossible,” Sylvia said.

“I could not do it (alone) for sure, but Matt has something extra special. He was able to break through into global companies that other NGOs had been knocking on the door for a long time… I think it was a sort of a miraculous trip,” Sylvia said.

“In the first 20 days, we thought what we had decided to do was not humanly possible. We were constantly moving… I totally underestimated what the challenges would be. But once you start, you have to just keep going,” Matthew said.

Sylvia, a journalist and author of Silenced No More: Voices of Comfort Women, is the co-founder of the 852 Freedom Campaign in Hong Kong. Matthew, meanwhile, is the head of charitable organisation Mekong Club, which encourages the private sector to combat human-trafficking.

By the end of the trip, they had travelled more than 10,200 miles across 17 states and visited 27 cities. From Sylvia’s hometown of Vancouver, Canada, to Matthew’s hometown of Hartford, Connecticut, in the US, the pair delivered presentations to 112 organisations, including Bank of America and Disney.

They explained what human-trafficking was, who the victims were, where it could be found, the impact on the private sector and what people could do to help.

“Everywhere we went, we talked about what was happening in Hong Kong, mainland China and the region,” Sylvia said.

Sylvia said she found strength in the legacy of the American president Abraham Lincoln who first took a stand against slavery.

“We kept telling ourselves to think of the 45.8 million women, children, men in slavery. That was what kept me going,” she said.

Matthew, a former United Nations officer who has been based in Asia for more than 25 years, said his driving force “was basic faith and the idea that something could be done”, and an extreme sense of frustration.

The pair eventually returned to Hong Kong, where they first met in 2012. They said the trip made them stronger than ever – both as a couple and as human rights activists.

“As a couple we learned in a variety of ways. First of all, we got to know our strengths and weaknesses better,” Matthew said. “I have a German background. Germans tend to be ten minutes early to everything, Koreans, or this Korean, was not necessarily early …So there was this tension going on,” he added.

“It’s a miracle that I ended up loving my husband more and appreciating him more, but at the beginning of the trip, I was like ‘I am going to wring his neck’… Why did I ever marry this guy?” she recalled, laughing.

Despite of the challenges, both said they had achieved more than expected on the trip, and their resolve to continue fighting human-trafficking had hardened.

“Our commitment to this is life long… When you meet someone who has been exploited in unspeakably evil ways, how can you be cold in that situation? It does change you… It’s the greatest human rights violation of our time. I pray, I hope that local Chinese will wake up to it,” she said.

Matthew said human-trafficking is fundamentally not just about being forced into unpaid work.

“It’s about loss of freedom. You loose control of your life, of your sense of justice, health, ability to educate yourself… everything is lost as a result of that. Some people say ‘why pick this issue?’ Because it’s a combination of so many bad things coming together in one place.”

While there are 45.8 million men, women and children in slavery, the combined efforts of the United Nations, governments and NGOs only manages to help approximately 0.2 per cent of victims, Matthew said.

He calculated that the human-trafficking business makes about $150 billion in profits each year, but there were only $350 million in donor contributions to combat the problem.

“We’re not winning the fight against human-trafficking,” he said. “The world needs more people to get the word out there about what’s happening. It’s not just in the US, Hong Kong… People don’t know about this topic and if they don’t, they will not do anything to help.”

Since completing their trip, Sylvia and Matthew Friedman have already received invitations to return to the US and also to go to Europe to spread their message.

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