PROSTITUTION

Government rejects call for legalised prostitution in official Hong Kong red light district

Security undersecretary says the move would involve major change in government policy and might breed other problems like triad involvement and blackmail

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 April, 2016, 9:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 April, 2016, 4:35pm

The government has rejected a suggestion from a lawmaker that a legal red light district could be set up in Hong Kong.

Undersecretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu was responding to a proposal from accounting sector lawmaker and Professsional Commons member Kenneth Leung during a meeting of the Legislative Council’s security panel.

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Leung said the city might take reference from other countries which allowed the establishments of red light districts to centralise prostitution activities.

His proposal was put forward during a panel discussion on ways to combat illegal prostitution.

Lee said the prostitution problem in the city was under control. He said the establishment of a red light district would involve major changes in government policy on the issue and comprehensive public consultations would be needed, and he therefore did not see the need to set up such a district.

He said red light districts could breed other problems like triad activities, blackmailing and underage sex.

During the meeting, Leung also suggested that tourism sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing would back the idea as red light districts could boost the city’s visitor numbers.

The suggestion however did not sit well with Yiu, who on Wednesday clarified his position on the matter.

“I don’t support the idea of setting up a red light district in Hong Kong,” Yiu said.

“It would send a negative signal. We cannot be compared with European or other more open countries. We have our own social mores,” he added.

The lawmaker said this would also be impractical in Hong Kong due to limited space in the city.

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Government figures showed that more people were arrested for unlawful employment involving sex work last year.

A total of 4,589 people were arrested last year, up from 4,133 in 2014.

The figures for 2013, 2012, and 2011 were 3,829, 3,619 and 3,939.

Fifty-six people were arrested for procuring or controlling prostitutes, up from 31 in 2014.

A total of 163 people were arrested last year for keeping vice establishments compared with 164 in 2014.

The government handed to the mainland authorities about 4,400 overstayers or illegal entrants involved in prostitution. They were to be banned from visiting Hong Kong for two years.

Additional reporting by Owen Fung