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BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - One of China's most sought-after actors is starring in an animated short-film about human trafficking and sexual exploitation, issues that have plagued the country, and Asia, for decades.
Zhang Hanyu, who won the Chinese equivalent of an Oscar at the Golden Horse awards in Taiwan last year, lends his voice to the Mandarin version of "Intersection," will be shown on Music Television (MTV) China this weekend.
Thai and English versions have already been broadcast on MTV's Southeast Asia channels, and versions in other Asian languages are planned.
The film is told from the perspective of five people, including a brothel owner, a trafficker and the victim. Both humorous and darkly depressing, "Intersection" is designed to put its message across in a medium young people can relate to.
"I hope the animation will stir meaningful conversations among youth about how we can fight against this tragic form of modern-day slavery," Zhang said.
Chinese actress Yuan Quan and Taiwanese singing and acting veteran Alec Su also give their voices to the film, described by MTV as an "adrenaline-fueled animation."
The United Nations estimates that out of the two million women and children trafficked every year, 30 percent are in Asia. "Intersection" was produced by MTV EXIT's (End Exploitation and Trafficking) campaign, which works with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to raise awareness about human trafficking.
MTV EXIT has previously worked with such international stars as Angelina Jolie and South Korean pop sensation Rain.
"We're using a different medium, animation, to alert young people about the risks of human trafficking," said Olivier Carduner, USAID's Mission Director for Asia.
The film is also meant to be used by non-governmental organizations and even schools to spread its message.
Trafficking is an issue in China, which has said it was making progress in fighting the problem, both domestically and from Southeast Asian nations such as neighboring poverty-stricken Myanmar. It has resorted to harsh punishments to deter it, including the death penalty.
The trafficking of women into China in particular is driven by poverty and a skewed sex ratio in parts of the countryside, which makes it difficult for many farmers to find wives.
Poverty also forces many desperate Chinese to try to illegally enter other countries by paying traffickers known as "snakeheads," who often charge their victims exorbitant sums of money and force them to work as virtual slaves when they arrive.
In April, state media reported that Chinese police had broken up a ring trying to smuggle about 300 mainly young people into Costa Rica.
Editing by Miral Fahmy