Protesting prostitutes allege police harassment

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 March, 2007, 12:00am

Mainland prostitutes held a rally yesterday to protest against alleged police harassment and wrongful arrests for soliciting.

Among the masked demonstrators outside the Star Ferry pier in Tsim Sha Tsui were two mainland women who claimed through loudspeakers that they had been wrongly arrested and framed by police for soliciting.

One of the women, who gave her name as Apple, also claimed that she was beaten by police in November after being stopped by two officers who checked her identity.

'The next day, I went to a restaurant for dinner and the same police came in and asked me for my ID again.'

She said she was then taken to Yau Ma Tei police station, where she was forced to sign a statement and a blank sheet of paper.

'I found out at court the next day I was charged with soliciting for immoral purposes. The police statement that I had signed said I had solicited the policemen, offering them sexual services for HK$200, but I hadn't,' Apple said.

The case was dropped due to incorrect procedures.

Sex industry advocacy group Zi Teng, which organised the protest, said mainland prostitutes were regularly stopped by police for ID checks. When found not to have Hong Kong ID cards, they were forced to sign statements saying they had solicited the police officers, the group claimed.

'Sometimes, the police solicit the girls first,' a group spokeswoman said.

The dozen protesters, all wearing masks with some carrying signs saying 'Stop police abuse' and 'False accusations', staged a short demonstration shortly after 11am.

Prostitution is not illegal, but soliciting clients is against the law and usually carries a penalty of two months' imprisonment.

Police dismissed the group's allegations, saying officers targeted people who controlled prostitutes and operators of vice establishments, rather than prostitutes themselves, unless they solicited in a public place.

A police spokesman called the accusations 'unfair' because Zi Teng had not provided further evidence to support them.

'The police specifically requested the concern group provide detailed information on their allegations in order to allow the police to conduct the necessary investigation,' the spokesman said.

A Zi Teng survey of 32 prostitutes revealed most had wrongly been charged with soliciting.