A lawyer in Shenzhen has hit out at the regulation that gives mainland police the power to lock up suspected prostitutes and their clients without trial. Zhao Zilong and several other lawyers have written to the National People's Congress asking for the regulation to be abolished. They said it was outdated and unconstitutional. Alex Ho Wai-to was ordered to undergo six months' re-education through labour within hours of being arrested in a hotel room with, according to police, a prostitute. He was not represented by a lawyer and was not tried publicly. 'Police broke into the hotel room without a search warrant - that itself is unlawful,' Mr Zhao said. 'And it did not say whether money was involved in this case. Ho could be sleeping with his girlfriend.' According to some reports, Mr Ho did not pay the alleged prostitute. The lawyer also questioned the length of the punishment and said it was unusual to detain someone for six months for hiring a prostitute. 'The sentence is highly arbitrary. Six months' re-education through labour is a harsh punishment.' Dongguan police said they handled the case according to the public order punishment regulation, which is not part of mainland criminal law but is frequently used by the police to punish prostitutes and their clients. 'The regulation gives the police too much leeway. It does not define clearly what constitutes prostitution,' Mr Zhao said. 'If we stretch the text a bit, even lovers who have sex before marriage or outside of wedlock could be defined as prostitutes.' He also criticised the regulation that allows police to impose fines on prostitutes and their clients. Unscrupulous officers have used this power to extort money from innocent people. He began his crusade to abolish the regulation 10 years ago when he handled a case in which a father and son were framed by a policeman who held a grudge against them. Mr Zhao submitted a proposal to the National People's Congress through a Chongqing NPC delegate in February 2003, asking the congress to abolish the regulation and the practice of re-education through labour. He said both were against the constitution and the spirit of rule of law. The NPC had yet to give a reply, but his proposal is widely supported by legal experts, including some judges. 'These practices are out of sync with our social development. They are the products of old times.'