Hong Kong human trafficking case leads to landmark court ruling

Hong Kong human trafficking case leads to landmark court ruling

He needed help.

It was 2012 and he had just returned to Hong Kong, smuggled in illegally by boat, CNN reports.

The man -- who goes by the court-assigned pseudonym ZN -- says he had spent four years, working seven days a week in a Hong Kong cell phone store, sleeping on the floor and suffering beatings at the hands of his employer.

Then his boss sent him back to his native Pakistan without a cent in pay. When he demanded his money, he says, his boss' associates back in Pakistan threatened to kill him and his family.

So he came back, determined to get his money. "Even after I came back to Hong Kong all I was asking for was my wages," he says. "I went to several government departments but no one would listen."

ZN's case was the basis for a landmark judicial review that has the potential to change the way Hong Kong deals with cases of human trafficking.

In his 150-page ruling, high court judge Kevin Zervos found that Hong Kong's immigration, labor and police departments failed to identify ZN as a possible victim of human trafficking and provide him with support or protection.

Zervos, in his ruling, places the blame firmly on the system, saying it lacks "any effective framework or set of measures to address human trafficking or forced labor." Hong Kong has no specific laws against either offense.

"He was left floundering in a system in which concern for victims of human trafficking for forced labor is mainly a rhetorical maneuver," Zervos writes.