trafficking: a conversation with my mother.

I never told my parents what I want to do in the future because I don’t know how to say it. My Cantonese is limited to school, food, and money. So, I found myself stumbling upon the correct words to explain what trafficking is. Let me start from the beginning.

Tonight, I decided to take the 9pm bus back to New Jersey with my mother. She opened her newspaper, and on the front of it was a photo of the long line in front of the Apple Store to buy the iPad 3 yesterday. She started by saying how Chinese people would buy the iPad and resell them (and other things that I didn’t understand – oops). We then segway into a conversation about poverty, outsourcing, and smuggling and trafficking.

Poverty. There are many villages outside of the cities in China that are poor, and they are restricted to their hometowns because everything, including their social welfare system, is based on their hukou (household registration system). They can apply for jobs in the cities, but it is extremely difficult.. and expensive. Who has the money to pay for those fees? So, they are stuck in their villages, and when the factories arrive, it is a blessing. They provide jobs.. and money. “Everything’s about money in China.”

Factories. We call it outsourcing; they call it income. “Americans think it’s a human rights issue, but when you have no money for food, you’ll take what you can get. You have a choice; you don’t have to work, but you won’t get paid. And if you don’t want your job, there will be someone to fill that position.” When I asked her about the long hours, she explained that it doesn’t matter if it’s in China or America, it happens. My mother works 12-14 hours a day. She doesn’t get paid by the hour but by pieces of clothing she finishes. The faster you work, the more you get paid. In China, her job was to check the electronics that were completed; that was her source of income. If she didn’t do that, the manager will easily find someone else who would do the job.

Trafficking. Yes, it happens. A trafficker went to her village to recruit “girls under 18 for jobs in Macau that will pay 10,000 (trust me; it’s a lot in China).” He chose the prettiest girls and rejected the others. Some women in the village questioned what kind of job paid so much. “You’re just don’t want my daughter to go and make us rich.” They questioned the trafficker until he left.

Trafficking is not the same as smuggling, but because people have to return the money they paid the snakeheads to bring them to the United States, they go into prostitution. I was confused at this point. Why would you go willingly into prostitution? “Because people are lazy. They want easy money. You lie on a bed all day and get paid.” WHAT?!

As I listened to my mother talk about all this, I was conflicted. Since NYCUP just ended (literally 36 hours ago), everything we encountered was still fresh in my mind. If this is a choice, then what do we as Christians do?