Guangdong police have broken up 214 criminal rings and arrested more than 3,000 individuals suspected of involvement in the sex trade in a wide crackdown that began four months ago, according to the provincial public security department.
Provincial authorities had planned to wrap up the campaign by the end of last month, but yesterday announced it would continue until at least the end of the year.
The drive to root out the vice trade in the province began with a police swoop in Dongguan city in February following an exposé by state broadcaster CCTV.
As of Tuesday, police had arrested 3,033 people, including 1,497 suspected operators and organisers of prostitution, while more than 3,553 hotels, saunas and massage parlours saw their licences revoked or were ordered to close until they rectified their operations, Zheng Zehui, a director at the Guangdong provincial public security department, said at a news conference in the provincial capital of Guangzhou yesterday.
In addition, 1,200 websites and more than 1 million instant-messaging accounts were closed for allegedly advertising prostitution and escort services.
The authorities said in March the campaign would last until May, and expand from Dongguan to the entire province. But Zheng said it would continue until at least December.
"Fighting prostitution is a tough and long-term task … But we will no longer allow prostitution to run rampant in Guangdong," Zheng said.
Since February, six inspection teams led by senior officials at the provincial-level had been sent to 21 cities across Guangdong to combat the vice trade, he said.
Prostitution became rampant in Dongguan after manufacturing industries closed or relocated to other parts of the country when export demand slumped in 2009 following the global economic crisis.
Hundreds of hotels had sprung up in the city to serve visiting buyers and exhibition attendees, and when the economy shifted, many hotels narrowed their business focus.
No one knows exactly how many people worked in the sex industry in Dongguan. Local analysts estimated there were more than 250,000 prostitutes working in the city at one point, and the business generated about 50 billion yuan (HK$63 billion) a year.
Dongguan's gross domestic product grew just 7.3 per cent in the first three months of this year, below the nationwide GDP rise of 7.4 per cent during the same period.
Dozens of police officials in Dongguan, including Yan Xiaokang, the former deputy mayor and head of the city's public security bureau, have been suspended from duty on suspicion of protecting prostitution businesses.
Several high-profile hotel owners, including Liang Yaohui, a deputy to the National People's Congress and chairman of the Crown Prince Hotel Dongguan, were arrested for running prostitution businesses from their hotels.
Liang, 47, director of Energy China Group based in Beijing, had been a Dongguan People's Congress member since 2008.
In his 20s, he started off as a hairdresser, opening a salon hiring more than 50 women who offered sexual services, according to mainland media.
He later went on to open the notorious Crown Prince Hotel, which was home to saunas that targeted Hong Kong businessmen.