Landlords scoff at gentrification plan to move professionals into red-light areas Parading arrested prostitutes and their clients through the streets is an 'effective way' to combat the illegal sex trade, a Shenzhen official said yesterday. Xu Desen , party secretary of Shenzhen's Futian district, told officials and representatives of local landlords that the government would no longer tolerate the illegal sex trade in any form. He said the government planned to spend 500 million yuan over the next two years turning vice areas into hi-tech and cultural centres. His remarks follow a public outcry last week over the way Shenzhen police treated arrested prostitutes and men who hired them during recent anti-vice raids. The officers dressed those arrested in bright yellow and paraded them through the streets wearing masks. Their names, ages and places of origin were then read out in public. 'The public parade [of prostitutes and their clients] has proved to be very effective in improving local neighbourhood safety and the general environment. It has turned a bad thing into a good thing,' Mr Xu said. The district party secretary praised the police actions against nightclubs and underground brothels in the district and said the crackdown would continue. The police action attracted criticism from the public, mass media and professionals. Several well-known lawyers in Shenzhen and Shanghai publicly denounced it as 'illegal and a brazen violation of human rights'. One source said earlier that the Ministry of Public Security had launched an internal investigation into the incident. But Futian police declined to comment yesterday. The Futian district government asked local landlords yesterday not to rent flats or commercial premises to prostitutes or people without legitimate income. District director Li Ping said the government wanted to turn well-known 'vice villages' such as Shanzui and Shuiwei into 'high-class residential areas for professionals, office workers and artists'. The areas would also become home to mobile-phone design centres, he said. Mr Li said the authorities would spend 500 million yuan in the next two years to improve the local environment, including building small parks, adding more street lights and beautifying streets. He promised that the government would 'move' professionals and high-income people into vacant buildings. He did not elaborate on the plan. Mr Xu told a group representing local landlords: 'There will be a transition period and the vacancy rate will increase inevitably. But the government will make up for it. We will bring professionals, hi-tech researchers and Hong Kong people to your communities. 'One thing that is clear is that we won't tolerate any illegal business. We can't make dirty money.' Two representatives of landlords from Shanzui and Shuiwei pledged to follow the government's instructions. But several landlords privately laughed off the proposal and said it was impractical. 'Professionals and white-collar [people] will never want to live in a place like Shanzui - unless the government orders them to do so. How long could we keep such high-class tenants?' one of the landlords asked. Most of Shenzhen's vice districts - such as Shanzui, Shuiwei and Shangsha - are urbanised villages. The majority of the structures in these areas are matchbox buildings hastily put together by local farmers in the early 1990s to provide cheap accommodation for rural migrant workers and for the sort of people who prefer to keep their identities secret. All sorts of shady businesses have prospered in the villages and many of them have become the city's de facto red-light districts.