The Wenhua Lu police department in Zhengzhou apologised on Thursday for mistakenly arresting an off-duty policewoman and her daughter as sex workers causing an outcry against arbitrary police action.
"We would again like to express our sincere apologies to the mother and daughter," the department wrote on its microblog, adding that the policemen responsible for the arrest had been suspended from active duty pending an investigation.
The 53-year-old police officer, surnamed Wang, was arrested late on Monday evening, when a police unit raided the daughter's apartment in what they called a "summer operation to catch prostitutes, strike at gambling".
Wang told the Dahe Daily, Henan's main newspaper, the policemen, who had forced their way into the apartment, did not heed her assurances that she was a policewoman and ignored her police badge.
Being arrested as a sex worker can lead to torture and forced confessions, according to a report by New York-based Human Rights Watch released in May, which detailed dozens of incidents of arbitrary arrests and abuse of women suspected of being sex workers by Chinese police. Even carrying contraceptives can lead to arrest on suspicion of being a sex worker, the report said.
Four to six million men and women are sex workers in the mainland, the human rights organisation estimated.