Police officers allegedly involved in the Dongguan sex industry were tipped off ahead of the latest high-profile crackdown against the trade, it has been claimed.
Now officers fear heads will roll with an investigation into the alleged corruption.
"A super typhoon is coming. I might need to flee myself if the investigation gets intense," said a senior Dongguan police officer.
Watch: Dongguan prostitution exposed by CCTV
The source said some officers were informed "ahead of the Lunar New Year" that an upcoming raid against the sex industry was imminent, warning those with vested interests to shut their businesses to dodge the raids.
"Often local police, city legislators and local triad leaders hold shares in local luxury hotels," the source said.
State media said the crackdown was prompted after CCTV on Sunday exposed the thriving underground sex trade as being protected by police. Local media reported Guangdong party secretary Hu Chunhua saying that he ordered a crackdown after viewing the CCTV reports.
Xinhua yesterday cited Dongguan city public security chief Yan Xiaokang warning that a special task unit involving the entire city police force would participate in a three-month campaign to eradicate the sex trade. Guangdong provincial public security chief Li Chunsheng also vowed to get to the bottom of police involvement in the trade.
But the South China Morning Post understands some local officers got wind of the crackdown ahead of the Lunar New Year and secretly raised the alarm.
Analysts also believe that the largest police crackdown seen in years on Dongguan's sex business could have been a direct order from Beijing.
While many Dongguan hotels remain in business, almost all saunas, massage parlours and karaoke bars have been shut since Sunday.
A female manager of Lion Hotel in Changping township told the South China Morning Post their nightclubs and sauna services had been suspended for redecoration. "The renovation will continue for weeks. We never offer illegal sexual services here."
But according to Steve Lam, a Hong Kong businessman who often visits Changping, the vice trade at the hotel had been busy until the Lunar New Year holiday. "Lion Hotel is very well-known among Hong Kong businessman. There were hundreds of prostitutes inside its saunas and karaoke bars each night."
Meanwhile, Dongguan taxi drivers are complaining their business has nosedived because of the crackdown. "There's no massive raid in Changping township but most pimps are lying low," said one cabbie, who claimed to have at least 10 contacts among local pimps and prostitutes. "I could get 20 to 50 yuan (HK$25 to HK$64) as a kickback for each guest I take to the hotels or the nightclubs," he said.
Another taxi driver said commissions could sometimes reach 200 yuan per customer.
So far, Dongguan has mobilised 6,500 police to raid almost 2,000 entertainment venues and arrested 162 people. Eight police officers had been suspended from duty, Xinhua reported.
Zhu Jianguo, a Shenzhen-based political scholar, said such a major raid would have had to have Beijing's backing, but he urged the government to think again before launching a blanket crackdown. "This will hurt the local economy and the tax revenue of local government."
Zhu urged the government to consider legalising the sex trade in order to better control it. "A crackdown is only going to send the business elsewhere."
Watch: CCTV news report on sex trade in Dongguan