The mayor of Dongguan city – which made headlines after its rampant sex trade was exposed, prompting a belated effort by authorities to clamp down on the vice – evaded questions about the crackdown’s progress when confronted by dozens of reporters on Tuesday.
Yuan Baocheng, who is also deputy party secretary for the city, was noncommittal when he was ambushed by a scrum of journalists at the Capital Hotel in Beijing, The Beijing News daily reported.
He was there for Guangdong officials' first meeting to select the head of the provincial delegation for the upcoming parliamentary talks in the Chinese capital.
Journalists on Tuesday wanted to know how the anti-vice operations were progressing, but Yuan largely kept mum, even when he was chased from the meeting room to the lift by reporters who shouted questions.
He mumbled repeatedly, “Thank you [reporters] … you are working so hard.”
Watch: Dongguan mayor keeps the media guessing
He was also besieged by photographers while waiting for the lift. Yuan then pointed out that fellow delegates might not be able to get to the elevators through the crowd. "Thank you, you are blocking the way," he said.
“Why does it take so long for the lift to go downstairs?” he was heard muttering to himself.
Since state-run China Central Television last month exposed Dongguan’s sex industry – and the failure of its police force to halt the trade operating under the neon lights of saunas, hotels and massage parlours – more than 6,000 police officers have raided nearly 2,000 entertainment venues. More than 900 people have been detained.
Unable to press the mayor for details on the vice crackdown, reporters switched to questions about the economy.
They asked if Yuan was confident that Dongguan could reach its GDP growth target of 9 per cent and if the city was experiencing unemployment, as reports have stated. The raids on the sex industry are expected to result in some 50 billion yuan (HK$63.5 billion) in losses for businesses across the city, according to Xinhua.
But Yuan stuck to his line: “Thank you [reporters].”
Dongguan’s deputy mayor and police chief, Yan Xiaokang, was sacked last month for failing to curb rampant prostitution. Ten more senior police officers have also been punished, some by demerits and others by being fired.
The Ministry of Public Security ordered that the crackdown on the sex trade should be made a national campaign next month.
Video: The CCTV news report exposing Dongguan's sex trade