Police acts in vice raids debated

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 April, 2006, 12:00am

Lawmakers and a rights group yesterday debated the extent to which police officers could engage with prostitutes when investigating vice.

Sexual intercourse and oral sex were strictly forbidden for officers investigating sex offences, the government told the Legislative Council panel on security but sometimes masturbation was OK, particularly when undercover agents had to 'receive some form of sexual service in order to maintain cover'.

But Zi Teng, an advocacy group for sex workers, quoted a paper by University of Hong Kong associate law professor Simon Young, who said this practice was 'unnecessary' and considered unethical conduct by international standards.

Legal sector lawmaker Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee said the practice damaged the image of the police and could amount to a possible abuse of power.

Zi Teng spokeswoman Elaine Lam Yee-ling said the group had received 50 complaints over the past two years from prostitutes who claimed police abused their power and sought masturbation from one-woman brothels.

Principal Assistant Secretary for Security Apollonia Liu said it was difficult for the police to find officers willing to undertake such operations. 'Many of these establishments are run by triads. Are the officers really enjoying receiving sexual services when they could lose their cover at any time and be attacked,' she asked.

Senior government counsel Agnes Chan said officers often had to return to an establishment several times to gather evidence against the operators. Refusing any sexual contact with a sex worker could jeopardise such an operation.