Tuoi Tre continues its investigation into Vietnamese women forced into sexual slavery in China. First, we start with Nghiem Thi Thu, the 17-year-old girl from Part 1 of the series. She was sold by her de facto husband for as little as US$1,500.
In mid-2010, Thu, from Vinh Tuong district, Vinh Phuc province, met a boy named Nguyen Tu Anh, who was born in 1988 in the same province, online. The rural girl was immediately attracted to Anh, who she described as looking like a South Korean actor.
like husband and wife, though they had no official registration.
She had to play online games for six months, collecting virtual ‘gadgets’ which she could sell for real money, to earn enough money to buy a wedding dress and ring.
Before the 2011 lunar new year, Anh invited her to the Vietnam-China border with some of his friends for a romantic holiday. They all later turned out to be working for a human trafficking ring.
When they arrived at the border, they hired a local to take them through a secret shortcut to China, after which they hired a car to go to Nanning city of Guangxi province. Here, they joined a 50-year-old woman named Ngoc, whose real name is Nguyen Thi Bien and is from Bac Giang Province. Ngoc is a brothel keeper in reality, but at the time she appeared to just be a nice lady.
In tears, Thu confided to Tuoi Tre, “In Nanning, they told me to wait while they fetched some clothes…Tu Anh [her de facto ‘husband’] did not say a word”.
As she did not know she was a victim, Thu stayed at Ngoc’s house for several days, after which they took a car to Linh Coong.
It was in this town that she finally realized she had been sold to a brothel boss named Bach. Madam Bach is Vietnamese, and as mentioned in Part 1 also came from Bac Giang Province and was once sold to a Chinese man for marriage.
When Thu figured out what was going on, she tried to escape by climbing down a wall but was caught by her ‘boyfriend/husband’ and Cao Thi Hong Luong, who goes by the nickname ‘fat’ Linh.
Thu told Tuoi Tre that the two pushed her to the ground, after which blood spurted from her back. They slapped her while threatening, “if you try to escape again, we will slash your face and make you beg [for alms] on the street”.
The more she cried, the more violent the beatings were. They told her to stop crying as they explained that “crying is considered unlucky by the Chinese”.
They then left her with madam Bach after negotiating a price.
After locking Thu in a room for two days, Bach asked her to “go to work”.
When asked what kind of work, Bach bluntly replied “work as a prostitute. I bought you for VND100 million (US$5,000) for nothing?”
Bach threatened to let some pimps rape her and inject drugs into her if she did not ‘work’.
Thu later learned that she was actually sold for a cheap 10,000 yuan (roughly VND30 million, or $1,500, not VND100 million as claimed).
A river on the Vietnam-China border through which many Vietnamese women were sold (Photo: Tuoi Tre)
Three sold in 10 days
A few days after selling Thu, fat Linh and Anh [husband-turned-trafficker] succeeded in selling two more girls into Bach’s brothel.
21-year-old Vu Thuy Ly, one of the two said victims, hails from Thanh Hoa Province. Her family is very poor; her father is a manual worker while her mother is a farmer working in the field.
Ly told Tuoi Tre that she was an 18 year-old attending a junior college in Hanoi when she met Nguyen Tu Anh [the same handsome man who tricked Thu] and fat Linh, as well as another man called Tuan, via Internet chats.
They held offline meetings, used the same ploy and asked Ly to come to a market on the Vietnam-China border on a fully-paid trip. Ly agreed.
Ly subsequently discovered that they had taken another 18-year-old girl with them. The group arrived at Dong Dang town of Lang Son Province on December 23, 2010.
‘Fat’ Linh proved caring by buying two pairs of shoes for Ly and the other girl to cross over the border into China.
They spent the night at madam Ngoc’s house and then arrived at Bach’s brothel in the evening. In the morning, the two girls discovered that their friends had all left.
Sensing that something was amiss, the two insisted on going back to Vietnam, upon which Bach coldly retorted “Don’t you know you have been sold?” When they asked “sold for what?”, Bach smiled and replied “to be a prostitute for men to enjoy”.
When they begged her to let them go and promised to pay a ransom, Bach shouted “I bought you each for VND100 million. Can you pay?”
Within just 10 days, Anh and fat Linh had tricked and sold three women into sexual slavery.
To be continued