Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery. It involves the recruitment, transportation, or receipt of a person by means of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of exploitation, including forced labour and forced sex work, etc. *Source: UN Palermo Protocol


1. If the suspected victim is under 18 and working in the commercial sex industry (cybersex included) with a pimp or manager;

2. If the suspected victim has been offered a job that seems ‘too good to be true’;

3. If the suspected victim is asked to sign an employment contract that is drafted in a foreign language;

4. If false promises were made with regards to the work and/or living conditions;

5. If the suspected victim is being charged a fee at rip-off rates for a job, sometimes unexpectedly. In turn, the individual might have agreed to take a pay cut or turned to money-lenders for help;

6. If the suspected victim is working excessively long hours and/or not paid the full salary;

7. If the suspected victim is deprived of food, water, rest or medical care;

8. If personal identification documents had been confiscated or taken away ‘to be kept in a safe place’;

9. If the suspected victim feels as though he/she cannot make decisions for himself/herself: being forced or pressured to do something you do not want to do, unable to move around or leave your premise of work or living freely, unable to leave the job freely, not permitted to interact with other people freely (including friends and family) etc.;

10. Live or work in locations with high security measures: security cameras, opaque/boarded up/barred windows, barb wires, security cameras etc.;

11. If the suspected victim is feeling vulnerable, isolated and unsafe at work;

12. If the suspected victim is fearful and lacks trust towards the controlling person and what he/she is capable of doing.

Going through the lists above can be helpful to determine if further screening for potential human trafficking is appropriate. However, they represent only a selection of possible indicators of human trafficking and are by no means exhaustive. Beyond learning the red flags of trafficking, it’s important to pay attention to context and educate ourselves how trafficking situations may intersect with other kinds of violences, crimes and various industries. Feel free to contact us even if you are not sure if this is a case of human trafficking.

Sources: ILO indicators of Forced Labour, 2012 Unseen UK, 2021 Polaris, 2020

Human trafficking can happen anywhere. People can be trafficked to homes (for domestic work), factories, farms, mines, fishing ships, brothels and nightclubs. It is not to be confused with human smuggling; human trafficking does not only happen across borders, it can happen within countries too. It is a global problem - no city or country is immune, including Hong Kong.

Human trafficking can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, age, nationality, education level and socioeconomic status. Globally, an estimated 50 million people are victims of modern slavery. In Hong Kong, victims of trafficking come from many countries. The majority of reported cases involve female victims.

See Case Stories:
· Shirley
· Ayyan
· Kasuni
· Sithara
· Zoe

Human Traffickers use various tactics to lure their victims and force them into exploitative situations, such as threats, deception, fabricated debts and psychological manipulation.

There can be many barriers to a victim seeking help, including but not limited to:

· physical and psychological trauma
· fear of authorities
· language barrier
· threats of retaliation
· livelihood challenges after leaving exploitative work or relationship
· lack of access to justice
· unaware of available services and resources
· stigma and discrimination
· victim blaming


Available in seven languages:

· English

· Bahasa

· Tagalog

· Nepali

· Thai

· Sinhala

· Hindi

· Tamil



Cards Against Trafficking is a set of educational tools aims at engaging the general public in a creative and fun manner and to provide culturally-relevant information so that public opinion in Hong Kong on human trafficking can be changed. It contains 47 cards in English and Chinese that provide both visuals and definitions to describe the wide array of terms used in the field of human trafficking.

If you are interested in purchasing Cards Against Trafficking, please contact info@branchesofhope.org.hk.



This English-Cantonese glossary contains 185 terms frequently used in the human trafficking industry, carefully explained in layman’s terms. It is the perfect tool for anyone hoping to gain a better understanding and deeper insight into this sensitive subject. Our aim in producing and publishing this glossary is to educate the public shedding light and providing standardised definitions of human trafficking terms for the Cantonese speaking community, and to spearhead conversations in society with a shared understanding of the local language.

View Glossary