British bid to visit men in Viet jail

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 October, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 October, 1995, 12:00am

BRITISH diplomats are stepping up demands to visit two Hong Kong men held in a Ho Chi Minh City prison.

The British Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City is this week expected to seek high-level meetings in a bid to get access to the pair, now being held in the maximum security Chi Hoa prison for their part in a syndicate forcing Vietnamese women to work in Macau brothels.

Police investigating the racket headed by Yuen Hok-yan and Fung Wai-keung now believe they kept women in Macau under the threat of violence.

The evidence has come from some of the 70 women spirited out of Ho Chi Minh City for sixth-month stints at five dance halls and karaoke bars the pair represented, detectives said.

They travelled four times to Vietnam as tourists to work with Vietnamese contacts to interview candidates and prepare photographic brochures for their Macau bosses.

They were arrested last month after police raided a house in the city as the men entertained prostitutes with Vietnamese counterparts.

Some of the women have told detectives they were tricked into going to Macau for six months to work as waitresses, only to be forced to sleep with customers in brothels.

They had to pay their own way to Macau through Guangzhou airport, with the Hong Kong pair describing the enclave as 'the promised land of high-incomes'.

Once in Macau the syndicate took their passports and kept 60 per cent of their earnings, demanding up to $30,000 for the right to leave Macau early.

One described by being beaten by four masked men when she initially refused to sleep with customers.

Another had to pay $25,000 after enduring four months, dozens of customers and several beatings. Her friend told police the gang forced her sick mother to hand over $15,000 'compensation' back in Vietnam after she tried to leave.

They were among a group of women who tipped off police after escaping to spark a one-year investigation.

The allegations of violence could lead to tough treatment, one diplomatic source said.

'We know they are in detention but as yet we have no firm idea as to what charges they face or when they may be in court,' the diplomat said.

'It has been made clear that prompt replies to requests for consular access are expected but so far we have heard nothing firm about a visit.' The pair are expected to face harsh court treatment with police talking openly of the need to make their case high-profile to deter other international vice-operators from homing in on Vietnam to fill red-light areas in their countries.

'The evidence we've got about this syndicate is strong and very, very detailed. This is a very important case for us,' one said.