Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) greets Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on April 28 before a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (Madoka Ikegami-Pool/Getty Images)

Pakistan Arrests 8 for Allegedly Trafficking Christian Girls to China

Suspects, all Chinese nationals, said to have used fictitious marriages as pretext for forcing them into prostitution

[Islamabad] Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) arrested eight Chinese nationals on Monday, one of them a woman, for allegedly trafficking Christian Pakistani girls to China for the purpose of prostitution.

Earlier, the FIA arrested two Chinese nationals when a “marriage ceremony” was being performed in the eastern city of Faisalabad, about 100 miles from the provincial capital Lahore.

FIA Deputy Director Jamil Khan, speaking from Lahore, told The Media Line that an intelligence operation in Faisalabad provided in a major breakthrough in the case. He said a man and a woman from China, and a person masquerading as a priest, were  detained at the fake ceremony.

Several gangs were believed to be involved, mainly targeting members of Pakistan’s relatively poor Christian minority, Khan added.

Reports of the fake marriages surfaced last month from Yuhana Abad, the largest Christian locality in Lahore, and other parts of southern Punjab province. Roadside banners said: “Long live Pak-China friendship! Attention, honorable Christians. Proposals of deserving, poor and good families are urgently required for China. Chinese family will bear all expenses. Education is not a problem.”

Dozens of Christian families have filed complaints in Lahore, prompting authorities to launch a comprehensive crackdown, a Home Department official told The Media Line, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Asif Paul, an Islamabad-based Christian human-rights activist, told The Media Line that despite limited resources, fellow activists were trying to help the victims’ families, although the exact numbers were not known.

“Their number may run into the hundreds,” he said of the victims.

The “matchmaking” centers produce fake documents for Chinese men, showing them as either Christian or Muslim. They then find poor girls, mainly from the Christian community, to marry the men by offering money and promises of a “good life.”

The Media Line spoke exclusively with Peter Jacob, executive director of the Centre for Social Justice and chairperson of the Peoples Commission for Minorities Rights. Jacob explained that that the two countries, longtime allies, were working together to build what is being called the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and that Pakistani authorities were hesitant to take stern action.

“We would like to see the ordeal of these young women end with evidence that Pakistan and China are friends through thick and thin, including in fighting crime and human rights abuses,” Jacob said.

Umair Ahmed, an official from Pakistan’s Interior Ministry, told The Media Line that several private marriage bureaus were involved in the scheme and that most of the complaints were originating in the Lahore and Faisalabad areas. The FIA was brought in following reports that Chinese nationals were involved in the illicit trade of human organs as well as forced prostitution.

China’s state-run Global Times newspaper has reported fake marriages with Pakistani girls, saying local authorities in China’s Shandong province were ramping up efforts to close illegal marriage brokers.

Soon after the arrests in Faisalabad, China’s embassy in Islamabad issued a warning against the use of illegal matchmaking centers.

“Both Chinese and Pakistani youths are victims of these illegal agents. Chinese laws and regulations strictly prohibit cross-national matchmaking centers,” the statement said.

However, the embassy rejected the media reports about the sale of human organs.

Zhao Lijian, deputy chief of the Chinese Diplomatic Mission, told the media during a special briefing that Beijing had already dispatched a task force that was already working in Pakistan with the Interior Ministry as well as the FIA.

Meanwhile, Father Inayat Bernard, rector at Lahore’s Cathedral Church, warned against marrying Chinese men.

“Do not sell your daughters out of greed or because you want them to make new lives abroad,” he told parents during Sunday services.

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