Hong Kong (CNN) – College students in Hong Kong stood on campus for 27 hours to raise awareness of modern-day slavery, in a campaign that ended on Thursday.
The “Stand for Freedom” event, which was organized by students from the University of Hong Kong's International Christian Fellowship group, raised HK$10,000 (U.S.$1,300) for human rights agency International Justice Mission. The funds will help support victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression, according to Christina Chan, one of the event's organizers. Chan grew up in the U.S. and first learnt about modern-day slavery at a conference there last year.
“It just seemed so unacceptable that we teach so much about how bad slavery is, yet it happens so much more today and no one even knows about it,” she said.
According to United Nations estimates, there are 27 million people worldwide who, through violence or threats, are forced into forms of slavery such as sexual exploitation, forced labor and armed conflict.
Hong Kong is a transit point for people from China and South East Asia who are trafficked for forced labor and prostitution, a 2012 report by the U.S. State Department found.
But the Chinese territory is also a recruitment center for traffickers, according to the report. Many women travel to Hong Kong voluntarily for legal employment in restaurants, bars and hotels but are coerced into prostitution under conditions of debt bondage when they arrive.
“A lot of people in Hong Kong are under the assumption that slavery is gone,” said Alfie Ariwi, a volunteer who stood on campus from midnight until the early hours of Thursday morning.
“They walk through Wan Chai or Mong Kok and they think that these sex workers are free. They don’t realize they have pimps and madams controlling them.”
More than 50 students took turns to stand on campus, in shifts that lasted from two to eight hours. The students collected the money by selling homemade bracelets and baked goods, and taking donations from passersby.