• Wed
  • Sep 3, 2014
  • Updated: 12:36am
NewsChina Insider

Dongguan sex worker reports stoke debate about legalising prostitution

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 February, 2014, 2:32pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 February, 2014, 3:31pm

Two days after Chinese national television brought the sex industry in Dongguan into the national spotlight, public opinion has been divided in a debate about the legalisation of the industry.

Wu Jiaxiang, a former official who was jailed for three years for his role in supporting Tiananmen Square students, was one of several prominent intellectuals expressing concerns over the crackdown against prostitution in Guangdong province. “I have long advocated the legalisation of the sex trade, now is the time,” he wrote in a microblog post.

Video: CCTV news report on sex trade in Dongguan

Wu echoed a widely shared sentiment that was boosted by the raids on brothels in hotels in the Guangdong city, an hour’s drive north of Hong Kong, over the weekend and the beginning of a three-month long crackdown on sex trade in China’s most populous province.

Shortly after China Central Television’s news broadcast aired a report on the sex industry in Dongguan on Saturday, the city mobilised more than 6,000 policemen to raid almost 2,000 entertainment venues.

Photos of sex workers kneeling and hiding their faces from cameras circulated widely and made Dongguan the most discussed topic on microblogs for days.

Nicholas Bequelin, a Hong Kong-based researcher with Human Rights Watch, said the CCTV report and the ensuing crackdown had unintended consequences.

“It’s a much more wide-spaced debate about the sex trade than we have seen in the past,” he told the South China Morning Post. “For the first time, there is a debate that includes the possibility of legalising sex work.”

Sex work is an administrative offence in China. Workers and clients can face up to 15 days’ detention and a fine of up to 5,000 yuan (HK$6,350) under current law.

“What triggered the discussion this time was how callous the CCTV report was.” Bequelin said. “Its absolute lack of sympathy or understanding has apparently triggered a lot of outrage and indignation.”

For the first time, there is a debate that includes the possibility of legalising sex work
Nicholas Bequelin, Human Rights Watch

In its Tuesday editorial, the Beijing Times blasted the nation’s media for putting sex workers at the centre of their discussions of the sex trade. “If the focus is not put on higher levels [of the industry], and if those who organise and protect the trade are not exposed, […] then there will be others joining the trade tomorrow,” it read.

Li Yinhe, a renowned sociologist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, argued in a blog post that the Dongguan crackdown was futile. Even if the city had been emptied of sex workers, customers would go elsewhere, she wrote, adding that the industry could only be brought under control if prostitution was decriminalised.

Others disagreed. The Global Times, an outspoken conservative daily, argued in its editorial on Tuesday that legalisation would not eradicate the sex trade.

Sima Nan, a celebrity writer and television host, argued that legalisation would not end abuse of sex workers. “Indian society has legalised prostitution, but its situation in terms of rape crimes is the world’s most severe,” he wrote in a weibo post.

UNAIDS estimated in 2009 that between 1.8 and 3.7 million sex workers were working in China at the time. About 868,000 sex workers worked in India at the time.


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This article is now closed to comments

I wonder if the Journalist had paid for the sex service. If he did, nice evidence. LOL
Legalization would go a long ways towards protecting the sex workers of society. Without the protection of the law, they are even more exploited and more taken advantage of then they would otherwise be. For workers in the sex industry, it is probably quite similar to Dickensian England where might makes right and without little hope of escape or redress.

Like the workers in the other "3Ds", sex workers should enjoy the full protection of the law when they try to make their livelihood and support themselves instead of relying on handouts from the state. They should be admired for their courage instead of stigmatized because certain people don't like it and try to impose it on everyone else.

Hopefully, Hong Kong and China will expeditiously decriminalize and regulate the sex industry, thereby providing protection and safety for both workers and customers alike.
The point is the sex trade will never be stopped - ever. Rather than trying to stop it and picking on the underdog - the sex worker - we should be asking how to make it as safe as possible for all concerned. That way we might see some progress.
IMO, send those CCTV reporters to the talibs as toys
should string those CCTV reporters up!!! I reckon they got the special service and then turned on the report to buy bonus points for themselves!!!
Currently, Prostitution is stil heavily discriminazed by most of people(mostly live in poverty countryside). and still there is no clearly establishment of society value achieved, which could futher result in loss of people 's spirit. So, crack down is a must solution to go. however, we do need to learn how Japan make the difference.
part of these poverty is caused by a confucius minded control freaks system!!
legalized or not...these sex trade or den are often protected and operated by the city police or official... so what's make the different...if the sex trade will be legalize, i believe the factory will suffer the most with difficulty looking for lady workers... and the corrupt government official will benefit the most from them...influx of women from nearby provinces will migrate to guandong and join the trade for quick money...


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