#MyFreedomDay brings awareness to lack of anti-slavery protections in Hong Kong

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Hong Kong’s private sector is picking up the government’s slack when it comes to fighting modern-day slavery.

Photo: U.S. Air Force graphic by Airman 1st Class Kyle Cope.

On Wednesday, schools around the world will participate in #MyFreedomDay, a student-led event under the CNN Freedom Project that raises awareness of modern-day slavery.

It is estimated that there are 45.8 million people enslaved worldwide and human trafficking earns more than $150 billion each year. There are more people trapped in slavery now than any other time in history.

Hong Kong currently has no specific laws that address human trafficking or forced labour. 

“Up until now, LegCo has repeatedly indicated that they do not need a specific law that addresses human trafficking or forced labour,” says Mr Matt Friedman, CEO of anti-slavery group Mekong Club

“They indicate that existing criminal laws address this issue.”

He argues that legislation is necessary to protect and support victims of forced labour to ensure they receive services that address their needs.

Over five years, Hong Kong’s private sector has become Asia’s leader in terms of its response to this issue. According to Mr Friedman, Hong Kong has over 41,000 trained private sector professionals, seven groups, and the most diverse set of responders (bankers, manufacturers, retailers and hotels) who handle this issue compared to other regional constituencies.

The Mekong Club has developed the first business pledge in Asia, which targets companies looking to combat modern-day slavery. 

“Signatories who pledge undertake a confidential self-appraisal to assess the company’s understanding, commitment, action and leadership on the issue of slavery,” Mr Friedman explains. 

“They also set targets to improve those areas in which they are weak. Companies assess themselves annually, with the guidance of the Mekong Club team, to see how their performance in fighting slavery is improving with time.”  

So far, ten major companies have signed the corporate pledge, some of which include the A.S. Watson Group, C&J Clark, and MGM China Holdings Limited.

Given the COVID-19 epidemic, the closure of Hong Kong’s schools have led to the cancellation of  #MyFreedomDay activities. Students are instead encouraged to participate online, where they can share what freedom means to them using the #MyFreedomDay hashtag.

Tomorrow, CNN will air a story where anchor & correspondent Kristie Lu Stout asks students from Hong Kong International School and Chinese International School this question.

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