Police arrest 12 in raid on high-rise brothels in Wan Chai

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 September, 2010, 12:00am

Police arrested 11 women and a 75-year-old man last week in a raid on a Wan Chai high-rise building where prostitutes operate on most of the 22 floors.

Nine of the women, all from the mainland, were detained on suspicion of breaching their conditions of stay - working while on a tourist visa or overstaying on a two-way permit; the other two were held on suspicion that they were under age.

The man, who is suspected of leasing flats used by some of the women, was arrested for controlling prostitutes. Police found him in possession of a thick pile of rental receipts, more than 60 keys and about HK$40,000 in cash.

More than 100 prostitutes operate 'one-woman brothels' on 18 floors of the Fuji Building in Lockhart Road. Prostitution is legal in Hong Kong, but soliciting, living off the earnings of a prostitute or controlling a woman for the purposes of prostitution are not. Police and immigration officers raided the building on Monday.

Police said the raid was the culmination of weeks of intelligence-gathering and was their fourth on the building in a matter of months. The fact it came a day after a Sunday Morning Post report about goings-on in the building was a coincidence, a police spokesman said.

'It was all an intelligence-based operation. We're well aware that some of the women working there are legal and some are illegal,' the spokesman said. 'So Monday's operation was not done on a whim, it was done after weeks of intelligence-gathering and planning.'

Police said they did not want to close the area off, knock on everybody's door and annoy those working legally there. 'We don't have any authority to do that and, at the same time, the majority of women are doing a legitimate business,' the spokesman said. 'What we have to find out is which doors to knock on. It takes weeks to actually work out where these illegal workers are and which rooms they're in so we build up a picture of what is happening. This means when we do go in there it's focused and intelligence-led, rather than randomly knocking on doors. That's not what we do.'

Police said that, after a raid, the rooms left by those arrested are changed and local women move in. Some are left vacant, others redecorated. Intelligence-gathering then begins again. 'Only five immigration officers and 10 police officers were involved in this operation on Monday. We knew exactly who we were looking for and which rooms they were in,' the spokesman said.

It was business as usual in the Fuji Building despite the raid, but police were moving on to other rackets. Websites such as Sex 141 advertise prostitutes' services, and Hong Kong police cannot shut them down as they are operated from the mainland. 'In the past we've just arrested the women involved, but we are now arresting the men controlling these women too,' the spokesman said.