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This project started in 2000, with the publication of Emerton’s research paper on Trafficking of Women into Hong Kong for the purposes of Prostitution: Preliminary Research Findings. The paper was the first academic study on the topic of trafficking into Hong Kong, and has generated much public debate on the issue, both locally and regionally. Shortly after the paper’s publication, in February 2001, the CCPL hosted a Round Table on Trafficking of Women into Hong Kong for the Purposes of Prostitution, at the University of Hong Kong. The event helped to foster links between different groups and individuals working in the area, and to provide impetus for further research and action. Details of Emerton's publications on this stage of the research project are listed on the right.


In 2003, Emerton, Petersen and Laidler (from the Centre for Criminology at the University of Hong Kong) were awarded a small project grant by the University Grants Council, to further their research in this area. In particular, the team was granted access to three correctional institutes in Hong Kong, enabling research assistant Garlum Lau to conduct 58 in-depth interviews with Mainland Chinese women imprisoned for criminal and/or immigration offences relating to their involvement in prostitution in Hong Kong. The project aimed to assess the background of the women, recruitment methods, work conditions and the level of control exercised over them. It also aimed to evaluate the extent to which the women might have been trafficked into Hong Kong, under the modern international definition of the term.


In April 2006, the CCPL, in conjunction with the Centre for Criminology, held a round-table to present and discuss the findings of this project. Attendees included officials from various government departments, members of the police force, the judiciary and the bar, consular officials, non-governmental organisations, and academics. Details of the publications arising out of this research to date are listed on the right.

Emerton and Petersen have also examined the human rights situation of Filipinas working as nightclub hostesses in Hong Kong, including the extent to which they might be considered trafficked. Details of their publications on this aspect of the research are listed on the right.


Participation in International Conferences


March 2008

Robyn Emerton presented a paper entitled "Trafficking of Mainland Chinese Women into Hong Kong's Sex Industry: Problems of Identification and Reponse" at the Socio-Legal Studies Association Annual Conference, University of Manchester, UK.

June 2003

Robyn Emerton presented a paper entitled "Trafficking of Women into Hong Kong for the Purpose of Prostitution: An Assessment of the Law and Policy Responses in the Context of International and Regional Developments at an international conference on "Trafficking in Persons" at Notthingham University, UK.

February 2003 

Robyn Emerton participated in the international conference on “Pathbreaking Strategies in the Global Fight against Sex Trafficking”, hosted by the US Department of State and the War Against Trafficking Alliance, in Washington DC, USA, at the invitation of the US Department of State.

November 2002 

Carole Petersen presented a paper by Robyn Emerton and Carole Petersen, entitled Migrant Nightclub/Escort Workers in Hong Kong: An Analysis of Possible Human Rights Abuses, at an international conference on “The Human Rights Challenge of Globalisation in Asia-Pacific-US: The Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children”, at the University of Hawaii, Hawaii.

Principal Investigators:

Robyn Emerton, Karen Joe Laidler and Carole Petersen

Project Period:

November 2003 – April 2006

Funding Source:

HKU Small Project Funding Programme

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