• Thu
  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 6:24pm
Column
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 February, 2014, 4:05am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 February, 2014, 3:52pm

World's oldest profession still one of the most honest in China

Dongguan police are chasing the wrong suspects if corruption and sleaze are the real targets of the massive crackdown on prostitution this week

After coming to power in 1949, the Communist Party quickly ordered a nationwide crackdown on prostitution, which the public welcomed, literally, with song and praise.

Six decades later, the world's oldest profession is alive and well on the mainland, and periodic campaigns to stamp it out are more likely to stir public sympathy for sex workers.

News of this week's vice blitz in the Pearl River Delta industrial hub of Dongguan was met with online comments like "Dongguan, hang in there" and "the public has your back".

The Guangdong provincial propaganda department, on the day after the CCTV exposé that sparked the police raids, said on its Sina Weibo account that people should judge Dongguan by its other merits, such as its tolerance of outsiders and contribution to the world's electronics industry. The people of the city need not worry about "being looked down upon", it said, without mentioning the police raids.

The simple truth is that no amount of police effort can eradicate certain human needs. The intensity of the public reaction to the crackdown reflected not just the lack of credibility of such government programmes, but also how social values have changed in modern times.

The report aired by CCTV on Sunday claimed the city's thriving underground sex trade was being protected by po lice.

Watch: CCTV news report on sex trade in Dongguan

According to local media reports, Guangdong party secretary, Hu Chunhua, ordered the crackdown straight after he watched the report. On Thursday, Xinhua reported a special task force involving the city's entire police force would conduct a three-month, provincial-wide campaign to eradicate prostitution. Guangdong provincial public security chief Li Chunsheng also vowed to root out police involvement in the trade.

While many countries legalise or at least regulate prostitution, mostly for public health and to prevent crime, mainland authorities see such solutions to the "problem" - to quote a recent People's Daily editorial - as "blasphemy against civilisation".

The emergence of such a thriving sex industry in a place like Dongguan is a complicated matter and should not simply be treated as a moral issue. It could also be argued that, compared with polluting state-controlled energy corporations, or manufacturers of tainted infant milk formula, or official corruption, the sex trade is more honest.

It is an open secret that Li Dongsheng , the former deputy national police chief who worked for two decades at CCTV, introduced at least two anchor women as wives to senior officials including Zhou Yongkang - a real irony for the state broadcaster who exposed the Dongguan sex trade.

According to sources, some Dongguan police were tipped off before the Lunar New Year about the looming crackdown. The biggest players with the most at stake were warned to dodge police raids. Media reports said many hotels, saunas and massage parlours avoided being raided by claiming they were carrying out renovations or had simply closed for business. It was also reported that more than 60 per cent of the working women had been warned to stay at home until the campaign passed.

On a more pragmatic level, the police move could cost Dongguan dearly, not only to the sex industry directly, but also the livelihoods of taxi drivers, cosmetics and fashion retailers, and landlords. Others say the crackdown could wipe 50 billion yuan (HK$64 billion) from Dongguan's economy, or 10 per cent of the city's gross domestic product.

And while the police might drive the sex industry out of Dongguan, many believe it will simply move elsewhere.

"Many of the businesses have relocated to Ronggui and Nanhai townships in Foshan , and others have gone to Zhongshan ," one knowledgeable person said . "They are offering higher commissions to the women. These places are less notorious, offering more stable income."

Why is it okay to turn a blind eye to the rich and powerful who spoil their mistresses with ill-gotten money while barring sex workers from making a living?

mimi.lau@scmp.com

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This article is now closed to comments

lib_hk

We should move Dongguan Inc to Hong Kong, esp Minie Lau's neighbourhood...they will apreciate the RMB50 billion GDP that brings...
hardhang
how is the view up there ?
waynelim
Amazing how self-righteous some people appear to be by slating Mimi. She is making a great point about this disruption of poor people who are trying to make a living selling their bodies. At what price and exactly for what? Because of some CCTV report whose bosses are guilty of introducing 'wives' to senior party members as well?
deendayal lulla
Legalise prostitution. Why women are harassed? They are gratifying sexual needs of men. In olden days,there used to be city brides,which is a more respectable word. What about pimps?
Deendayal Lulla
donniemcm
Well that is just a mask.
They told the public that they want to crackdown prostitution but in behind they just want the huge amount of money that is made.
The same goes for the corruption. They don't really care who and how people are corrupted. They just want the money back to cope with the huge credit unstable ground.
recanter
...because "the rich and famous" rule the country and China is not a democracy!
smithmk127@gmail.com
Disappointing how most of the articles surrounding the CCTV expose neglect to investigate just how the sex workers got there. The biggest crime is the sex traf**** that is ignored by the government, the public, and most ashamedly the media.
johnfra
Rich playboys using their father's money and Corrupt officials using everybody's money go to Nightclubs, negotiate with mamasan and pay to take a girl out to a hotel and that's call Entertainment. The poorer classes go to a humbler establishment and get humiliated by the Police in the so-called 'licence check' and the girls are arrested and send back across the border after serving their sentence here for breach of their conditions of stay for 'working'. And some of your readers think that the 'cleanup' is MORALLY justified !
Grow up Hong Kong.
village2206
It sort of reminds me of a dog chasing its own tail. quite funny in some ways.
mo yung
It seems that the author of this article, Mimi Lau, considers women and sexual vices as commodities, just as women, children and slaves were thousands of years ago. Ms. Lau apparently opposes societal progress of human civilization.

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