Girl, 14, among 10 held over sex rings

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 September, 2008, 12:00am

'Compensated dating' syndicates busted

Girls as young as 14 were found to have been providing sexual services when police smashed two prostitution rackets, which had recruited the girls and clients through internet chat rooms promoting their services as 'compensated dating'.

Ten girls and women controlled by the syndicates were arrested when sites in Kowloon West were raided over the past two days in an ongoing operation.

Three girls aged 14, 15 and 17, all school dropouts, were found in a flat in Yau Ma Tei used by one of the syndicates. Police, who said the two younger girls were under care and protection orders, seized a small quantity of an illegal drug in the flat and arrested the three for possession of dangerous drugs.

The other seven girls and women, including two students aged 16 and 18, were arrested for soliciting for an immoral purpose when they met police officers disguised as clients.

'Some of the girls are from poor families or have a history of running away from home,' Chief Inspector Chung Chi-ming of Kowloon West police said. 'Initial investigation showed that they engaged in compensated dating because they wanted to make quick cash.'

During the operation, which began on Wednesday, officers arrested three men and another two women on suspicion of controlling women for prostitution. Police said the five, aged 19 to 32, were masterminds or members of the two syndicates.

Polce raided two Yau Ma Tei venues last night and arrested a fourth man, aged 22, on suspicion of living off the proceeds of prostitution. Another 11 girls, aged 14 to 17, were taken away for investigation. It was unclear whether the latest arrested man was from either of the syndicates.

Chief Inspector Chung said the girls and women controlled by the syndicates were paid HK$800 to HK$2,000 each in return for sex but had to pay 40 to 50 per cent to the gangs. The 'well-organised' syndicates 'provided living quarters for some girls and arranged transport to deliver and pick them up'.

Police said hotels and short-stay hotels in Tsim Sha Tsui, Yau Ma Tei and Mong Kok were booked for the girls and women to provide sex.

Photos of the girls and women were posted on internet chat rooms listing the sex services they provided and prices, police said.

The operation was the first police crackdown on prostitution syndicates promoting their services as compensated dating.

Acting Superintendent Tsang Yiu-wo said the operation was mounted because internet chat room-related compensated dating was becoming more common in the city.

The term compensated dating was coined in Japan and involves girls or women being paid for going out with an unknown man. While having sex is not a required part of the bargain, the date often results in sex.

Many prostitutes and prostitution gangs in Hong Kong have begun to promote their services as compensated dating, since it sounds more attractive and exotic to prospective customers and may help get around laws barring organised prostitution.

Chief Inspector Chung said undercover officers were deployed to collect evidence after the discovery of seven chat rooms promoting compensated dating. 'Undercover policemen were assigned to meet girls involved in the compensated dating to find out how they worked,' he said. 'Undercover policewomen went online to find out how the syndicates recruited the girls.'

As well as the arrests, a small amount of the drug Ice, computers, records and condoms were seized.