How two Vietnamese women trafficked to China returned home

By Minh Nga   August 28, 2019 | 04:47 pm PT
Son is 16 years old. She is the mother of a child that is three and a half years old.

She had barely entered puberty when she was raped by a much older Chinese man who purchased her from a Vietnamese trafficker. And Son* is one of the lucky ones.

She is one of two Vietnamese women freed from captivity in China last month. The two women are among many who are tricked, sold and trapped as "wives" to strangers in China every year.

Born in 2003, Son is a native of Bac Lieu Province in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. Her mother became mentally unstable after her father abandoned them when she was a small child. Stuck in such a situation exacerbated by poverty, Son soon dropped out of school.

When she was 11, a woman in her neighborhood suggested that she goes to work in China and earn money to help herself and her mother. Son agreed without a second thought.

In a familiar, tragic story, she was trafficked to China and sold to a much older Chinese man.

She kept trying to escape, and once, when she succeeded, she fell into the arms of another trafficking ring and was sold to another Chinese man.

Son, despite her tender age, did not give up. She managed to find a way to use a mobile phone and get in touch with a friend on social media. The friend made a call back to Son's family in Vietnam.

Her family reported her plight to the local police. The crime branch of the Bac Lieu police had already trained with Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, a Hanoi-based nonprofit organization that rescues Vietnamese women and girls trafficked to China for the sex trade as well as forced labor.

The organization was informed of the case and found a way to contact Son and get her out of the Chinese house and back to Vietnam.

N (L) hugs her mother as she returns to her hometown in Bac Lieu Province, July 30, 2019. Photo courtesy of Blue Dragon.

Son (L) hugs her mother as she returns to her hometown in Bac Lieu Province, July 30, 2019. Photo courtesy of Blue Dragon.

Nguyen*, the other women rescued last month, is another story.

Several years ago, when Nguyen became a single mother with two kids after getting divorced, she took the children back to her mother’s house in Vinh Long Province, also in the Mekong Delta.

Stuck in poverty, Nguyen listened to several relatives and decided to leave her children for her mother to look after and went to "work at a factory in China" in October last year.

As soon as she set foot in China, Nguyen was sold to a Chinese man. He and his family took all of her IDs and personal papers and as she refused to obey them, she was repeatedly beaten and locked up.

Later, once she began abiding by their rules, the Chinese family sent her to work at a factory, as she had been promised in Vietnam, with one crucial difference: all her earnings went into their pockets.

Eventually, like Son, she too found a way to use a mobile phone to contact her family in Vietnam and inform them about what had happened to her.

Once again, in cooperation with the police, Blue Dragon reached out to Nguyen and instructed her, step by step, on how to escape. It was a secret operation that lasted three months.

Nguyen was advised on what to do to gradually gain more trust from the Chinese family. And when they had enough confidence in her to let her go outside by herself, the team jumped in and rescued her.

The aftermath

Chau Dinh, psychologist with the Blue Dragon Children's Foundation, said that for now, both Son and Nguyen are in stable conditions, after staying for sometime at the shelter. They have since returned home, Son to her mother and Nguyen to her children, now 12 and six.

T with her daughter as she returns to Vietnam on July 30, 2019. Photo courtesy of Blue Dragon.

Nguyen with her daughter as she returns to Vietnam on July 30, 2019. Photo courtesy of Blue Dragon.

Nguyen, 32, is planning to work in a factory because she badly needs money to raise her children, but Blue Dragon wants to offer her some help so that she can attend training courses for a professional career later. Nguyen has said she would consider the opportunity.

As for Son, her mother’s condition does not allow her to make any long-term plans at the moment. Later, she wants to learn to become a tailor and Blue Dragon has promised to help her with that.

Regarding her 3.5-year-old baby in China, Chau said "this is a sensitive issue that Son does not want to share with others." 

The organization always tries to rescue both the mother and her children, but they have not been able to get the children out in some cases, she said.

Blue Dragon said it will keep working with her to see what she wants for her child.

The organization will also be their legal representative as the investigation into their kidnapping and rape.

"The organization will represent and protect the rights of the victims it had helped rescue at trials, if there are any," said Le Thi Hong Luong, human trafficking coordinator at Blue Dragon.

She said that the trafficking of women and children to China continues without let up.

Traffickers these days have turned to the social networks to deceive many victims, and also deploy tricks to make it difficult to investigate and arrest them.

Trafficking rings have not stopped at selling women and children as sex slaves or wives of Chinese men, they are also luring women into the surrogacy business or tricking pregnant women to sell their newborns, Luong said.

Hundreds trapped

Officials of the Ministry of Public Security said in June that they were working with other countries to bring home 385 human trafficking victims who remain abroad.

About 80 percent of human trafficking victims in Vietnam end up in China, according to the ministry.

Many of the trafficked children are approached through social networks like Facebook and Zalo.

Besides financial difficulties, police say negligence, easy immigration procedures and gender imbalance in destination countries are major reasons for the increasing incidence of trafficking in Vietnam.

China, the world’s most populous country, suffers from one of the worst gender imbalance rates due to its one-child policy and illegal abortion of female fetuses by parents who prefer sons. This has led to increasing trafficking of Vietnamese women and baby girls.

*The women are referred to by their last names for their protection.

go to top