Health and Rights at the Margins: Human trafficking and HIV/AIDS amongst Jingpo ethnic communities in Ruili City, China


  • Elena Shih



Ruili City, Jingpo ethnicity, human trafficking, forced marriage, HIV/AIDS, cultural stigma


In 2007, China and Myanmar signed their first Bilateral Memorandum of Understanding on human trafficking. The two countries cemented this agreement with the unveiling of the first Border Liaison Office in Ruili City, located in China’s southwestern Yunnan Province — one of the primary border crossing points between China and Myanmar. The government focus on human trafficking on this border intersects with decades of struggles to curb the border’s porousness to drugs and HIV/AIDS. This paper is based on qualitative ethnographic participant observation and interviews with young Jingpo women living in Ruili City and investigates the risk of human trafficking as a by-product of cultural stigma associated with ethnic marginality, drugs, and HIV/AIDS. The case of Ruili warns us that the global shift towards regarding human trafficking as the single most perilous phenomenon of the current age obscures ongoing issues of vulnerability and cultural stigma for ethnic minority peoples globally. In lieu of state sponsored patrol and monitoring of the border, more attention must be paid to overlapping concerns of people living in border communities, including drug prevalence, disease, and ethnic marginalisation.


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Author Biography

Elena Shih

Elena Shih is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at UCLA, where she is a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellow and an American Sociological Association Minority Fellow. Her dissertation research compares faith based and secular factions of the transnational movement to combat human trafficking in China and Thailand. In 2004, she was a Fulbright Fellow at the Peking University Center for Women’s Law Studies and Legal Aid. During her time in China, she also co-founded a community arts programme that provides a no-cost arts education to ethnic minority youth living on the China-Burma border ( This research was sponsored by fieldwork grants from the UC Global Health Institute, UCLA Asia Institute, and UCLA Center for Chinese Studies.




How to Cite

Shih, E. (2013). Health and Rights at the Margins: Human trafficking and HIV/AIDS amongst Jingpo ethnic communities in Ruili City, China. Anti-Trafficking Review, (2), 119–136.