• Tue
  • Dec 23, 2014
  • Updated: 11:51am
CommentInsight & Opinion

Prostitution thrives as officials say one thing and do another

It's not the 'oldest profession' for nothing - the sex trade not only provides income to millions, its clients include the powerful

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 August, 2014, 4:50am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 August, 2014, 4:50am

The word in the corridors of Chinese officialdom is that there are "some things you can do but never say and some things you can say but never do".

Prostitution belongs to the former. It is officially illegal on the mainland but prospers nonetheless in every part of the country.

In all cities and towns, large and small, prostitutes loiter around nightclubs, bars, karaoke rooms and massage parlours. Out on the street, skimpily dressed women are a common sight, sitting in the windows of hair salons and openly offering sexual services.

Even in the nation's political epicentre on Beijing's Changan Avenue, sex services are available in hotels and entertainment venues.

In economic terms, prostitution is a major industry in the same league as medicine and education, providing millions of jobs for its workers as well as services to its many more customers. That's why any development about it is news. It's no surprise, then, that a Xinhua report about the resumption of the sex trade in the Guangdong city of Dongguan last week made headlines nationwide.

Just five months after China Central Television ignited a large-scale crackdown with a report on Guangdong's "Sin City", Dongguan appears to be back in the world's oldest business. Global Times reported that some 1,134 entertainment venues, or nearly 70 per cent of those closed in the southern city during the crackdown, had reopened. That comprised 38 saunas, 465 karaoke parlours and 631 foot-massage centres. China Daily put the proportion at 80 per cent.

The news was enough to prompt state-run media to analyse whether Dongguan's municipal government was truly committed to the crackdown.

Indeed, the city authorities have long taken the "say but never do" attitude to the illegal industry, turning a blind eye for decades despite its high visibility. An estimated 300,000 prostitutes work in this city of seven million people.

The crux of the matter is that the sex trade is one of the pillars of the local economy, generating 50 billion yuan (HK$62.5 billion) or 10 per cent of Dongguan's 550 billion yuan gross domestic product last year.

That economic role was one reason that the central government's crackdown rebounded in unintended ways, triggering a rarely seen nationwide debate over whether the sex trade should be legalised.

Many of the arguments against legalised prostitution are grounded in ethics and morals. But advocates of legalisation counter that the activity occurs anyway and it makes sense to minimise its harm and maximise its gains through law.

The hard truth is that the industry is many people's bread and butter. Between four million and six million prostitutes ply their trade on the mainland, according to a 2010 World Health Organisation report. Some estimates say there are as many as 10 million sex workers in the country. In addition, there are millions working in related industries such as hotels, transport and catering.

Then there are the tens of millions of the sex trade's clients, many of whom are officials. Local officials avert their gaze to what happens in plain sight, despite the central government's campaigns against the industry.

Another factor at play is the millions of part-time prostitutes who make their way as mistresses to the wealthy and powerful in business and officialdom. If revelations from the cases of corrupt cadres are any guide, it is not uncommon for officials, particularly those higher up the power structure, to have at least one baoni, or "contracted prostitute".

Perhaps the central government's crackdown on prostitution is also part of President Xi Jinping's campaign to against graft and extravagance among officials, a mission also aimed at fostering socialist and Marxist orthodoxy to nurture clean governance and moral standards.



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This article is now closed to comments

Prostitution! What is that? Aren't we all prostitutes of one sort or another. We are all selling something, whether our physical labour, our goods and services etc. Don't we have to have a glib tongue in order to entice people to buy. Take lawyers for instance, they act for either side at the drop of a hat, as soon as the fee is agreeable. Car salesmen and the old-fashioned snake-oil medicine men. You name it.
However, women who make no secret of selling their favors are more honest than some of the real WHORES who'd ditch you the minute you lose your job or your fortune is in decline. Or those that only go out with you if you drive up in your merc or bmw.
Not legalising it simply put the women in danger and a large share of their hard-earned cash in criminal pockets. Come to think of it, why not let the real criminals licence and run proper sex services, i.e. the governments of the land everywhere. The tax dollars can contribute to the general revenue and clients can enjoy true satisfaction without the stigma, the sex ladies can have true protection and health-checks etc., and the police will no longer get freebies to "obtain evidence" and they'd have to pay like everyone else.
Prostitution should be made legal in HK and China. These sex workers should be protected by law and pay taxes. Compulsory health checks should be made, and their activities monitored.
The Economist Magazine just published a huge article - about the sex trade. A sex worker can make up to $400USD per hour in New York. Compare this to say $400RMB- and half goes to the pimp and corrupted officials- robbing these women from their earnings.
I also know of sex workers especially Koreans who work in Australia using student Visas, or work Visa, that enable them to work a certain amount of hours-they charge about 250AUD per hour.
So I feel besides the silly retail tourism industry that confines our youths to holding duty free baskets at retail shops, or working themselves to death 9AM to 9PM- at the office, this oldest profession would offer a good wake up call-to our narrow silly band of 4 pillar industries - Finance , tourism, services and logistics.
Also , there are many escort centers that are even Public Listed ( America, Europe) that would serve as a good investments - that are higher yielding than our MPF.
I personally believe prostitution is unethical, however , one just has to go to Lan Kwai Foong, after 2am - and you'll see the office ladies there dressing up and behaving no different from -professionals. I'm no sexist - but that's a fact. So why not do it in a professional and safer way. ( health checks , and compulsory condom/ protection).
I also believe , that legalizing prostitution would be a way to reduce the occurrence of adultery, teenage ( under age prostitution , pregnancy, safety etc, ) as this business is monitored.
I also believe that, it is a women's right to do whatever she wants with her body.
Since HK prides itself for being a Free Market Economy, than it should not limit this freedom of trade to just Blood sucking Landlords, Property Developers, but also anybody who wants to do business.
Oh Yes, this industry could also help many other wage earners who need to supplement their income ( due to the HK infamously known to pay low wages).
They could use this money for down-payment for a property, retirement, healthcare etc.
Can't agree more. The Business-Government collusion squeezes everything from these women and the Hypocrites blame them on the moral high ground. Sex workers indeed deserve more respect from the society.
I'm shocked, shocked, to find that prostitution is going on in here......
The biggest problem with prostitution is sex traf****. If we legalize prostitution are we inadvertently legalizing sex traf****? We need to be careful about it, because those pimps have to obtain their girls from somewhere, not all prostitution is voluntary. Why should I have sex for a living when I can use my looks and find a tycoon and only have to sleep with one person? Why do I have to sleep with 100 people a day? Its a **** job right?
Formerly ******
Sheesh, check any US town (or any town anywhere in the world, for that matter) near a military base and on every payday, one will find that there's a substantial increase in the portion of the female population that enjoys going to bars.
哎,檢查任何美國小鎮 (或任何地方在世界,對於那件事的任何城市) 附近的一個軍事基地,在每個發薪日,一會發現是有的部分喜歡去酒吧的女性人口大量增加。
Funny................. nobody wants to comment about this.
Skeletons in the closet?
Rape is not work. No consent. A cover for sex traf****.
Formerly ******
Huh? Did you read the news story?


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