Police face action over 'vice parade'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 December, 2006, 12:00am

Outcry after prostitutes, clients marched through streets

Several Shenzhen police officials may face disciplinary punishment for parading arrested prostitutes and their clients through the streets - an act that has caused a public outcry and is being denounced as 'a brazen violation of human rights'.

The Ministry of Public Security has ordered Shenzhen police authorities to investigate last week's incident, according to a source. Several officials could receive disciplinary punishment as a result, the source said.

Shenzhen police arrested 100 prostitutes and men who hired them during an anti-vice raid last Wednesday. The officers dressed those arrested in bright yellow and paraded them through the streets wearing masks. Their names, ages and places of origin were then read out in public. At least 10 were Hong Kong residents.

The parade attracted thousands of spectators and was widely reported by newspapers in Hong Kong and on the mainland.

But the Shenzhen force's public humiliation tactic soon backfired, causing a nationwide furore as people wrote to newspapers and internet forums denouncing the act as a brazen violation of privacy and human rights.

The All-China Women's Federation filed a formal protest with the Ministry of Public Security last Friday, saying the act was 'an insult to all women in China' and asking the ministry to investigate.

It said using public humiliation as punishment was 'old-fashioned and damaging to social harmony'. The letter said such incidents were bad publicity for China.

The ministry launched an investigation after receiving the protest. A source familiar with the situation said the ministry had reprimanded the Shenzhen police chiefs and asked them to submit a written explanation.

The case also incensed the public. An online survey by people.com website showed that more than 70 per cent of the 1,015 respondents rejected using public humiliation as a form of punishment.

'To a certain extent prostitutes are victims of the vice industry. The act was barbaric and embarrassed all of us,' read a message left in an internet forum.

Shanghai lawyer Yao Jianguo submitted a petition to the National People's Congress on Sunday, saying the action was 'illegal, inhumane and ineffective'.

'Humiliating suspects in public was forbidden by the Ministry of Public Security in the 1980s because it violated basic human rights,' his letter said.

Xu Daowen, a sociology professor at Shenzhen University, said the tactic was 'old-fashioned'. He said it reminded people of public humiliation rallies during the Cultural Revolution.

But Professor Xu said the incident showed that the local community was not happy with the authorities' failure to control the rampant vice industry.

'Many Shenzhen people supported the police. It shows the public is concerned about the widespread prostitution problem in their community,' Professor Xu said.