The risks outweigh the benefits

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 March, 2010, 12:00am

When a city accountant was convicted of having paid for sex with under-age girls last week, it was a reminder that 'compensated dating' - an issue frequently reported on and discussed in these pages - is as much of a social problem as ever.

According to police, 61-year-old Henry Chui Che-hung had sex with as many as 100 girls, suggesting the problem may be even more widespread than most Hongkongers realise.

There has been no shortage of media reports about under-age girls venturing into compensated dating to buy the latest cell phones, or providing 'services' to be able to afford a Gucci handbag. In a materialistic city like Hong Kong, it is no surprise that young women want these things. But Hong Kong is no better than the poorest town in the poorest country if its citizens think that it is okay for its youth to buy the latest gadgets and accessories by turning to prostitution.

Money is the root of many problems in Hong Kong. Parents spend long hours at work, leaving the raising of their children to domestic helpers and television, teaching their children that money is more important than anything else. Young people are pushed and pressured to get good results, attend a good school and good university, then get a good job with good money.

In this environment, commodities like designer goods, flash cars and the latest mobile phones are badges of honour - markers by which people are valued. Parents even buy them for their children to make up for a lack of parenting, the neglect of never seeing them, of not reading them their bedtime stories. The result is young people who see their lives as worth less than a pair of shoes, a handbag or a mobile phone.

Young people who are tempted to venture into this dangerous game to acquire the gadgets and accessories their friends flaunt should read those now-common media reports - girls abused, humiliated and, in one widely reported case, even murdered. They should ask themselves: 'What am I worth?'

Teenagers who are forced into prostitution in more unfortunate parts of the world do so out of desperation. They need food, a place to sleep. In Hong Kong, young people will put themselves at risk and degrade themselves for designer goods. Sadly, many of them seem to think it's okay. As anyone who read the reports last week should realise, it is not. It is prostitution. We should not have to read stories about a 61-year-old man soliciting dates with children on the internet.

Compensated dating is dangerous. Nobody who values their life does it. Social workers say that young women who go on compensated dates delude themselves into thinking what they are doing is not prostitution because they are 'in control' - they can decide at any moment to call anything off. But young women who venture down this path are giving up control to a stranger for money.

A survey of 600 young people last year found that more than 30 per cent would consider compensated dating as a full- time job. As the sordid details of the latest twist in the compensated dating drama come to light, it is to be hoped that young women begin to realise that arranging dates for money on the internet is not only dangerous - it is beneath them.