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China slams US on human trafficking downgrade

The Chinese government is succeeding against human trafficking and firmly opposes irresponsible remarks from the US, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

"The Chinese government firmly resolves to crack down on human trafficking and has achieved clear results. We resolutely oppose irresponsible remarks made by the US on other countries' efforts against human trafficking in accordance with its own laws," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang told a daily conference on Tuesday.

"Human trafficking is a problem faced by many countries and no country is immune. China is willing to strengthen cooperation with other countries on cracking down on human trafficking based on mutual trust," Lu said.

The US placed China on its global list of worst human trafficking and forced labor offenders, according to the Trafficking In Persons report.

The report listed a wide variety of human trafficking that occurs in China, including forced labor, forced begging, sex trafficking and exploitation, and the trafficking of women, men and children from other countries into China.

While it acknowledged that China "took some steps to address trafficking," the report said that the country must do more to address the issue.

It pointed to ongoing state-sponsored forced labor -- despite Beijing's claims to have abolished the practice -- and gaps in the law that allow traffickers to operate.

"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 labors from North Korea that are located in China," US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in remarks introducing the 454-page report.

Tier 3 is used to describe countries that are making no significant effort to comply with international standards. The last time China was ranked part of this group was in 2013, and since then it had moved up a half-notch.

The Tier 3 designation could mean restrictions on certain kinds of foreign aid funding not tied to humanitarian or trade issues, according to the report. It adds, "The President may determine to withhold funding for government official or employee participation in educational and cultural exchange programs for certain Tier 3 countries."

US President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump, who serves as a White House adviser, also spoke on Tuesday at the report's launch, emphasizing that combating human trafficking is a "major foreign policy priority of the Trump administration."

The downgrading has the potential to increase tensions between the US and China.

Since his inauguration, US President Trump has generally taken a conciliatory tone toward Beijing on a range of issues including trade and currency while courting Chinese President Xi Jinping's cooperation in exerting pressure against North Korea's nuclear program. But the US president tweeted recently that Xi and China's efforts to help with North Korea have "not worked out."

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