Scores of suspected sex workers arrested in same building where Hong Kong police rounded up almost 100 just months ago
Among those picked up at King Hing Building in Mong Kok were women from Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Venezuela, Belarus and mainland China
Hong Kong police arrested scores of suspected sex workers after launching new anti-vice raids in a residential building where nearly 100 prostitutes including 17 Russians and seven Thai transgender women were rounded up in a crackdown earlier this year.
Among the 80 arrests on Thursday and Friday at the 15-storey King Hing Building in Mong Kok were 12 Thai transgender women, nine Russian women, three each from Kazakhstan and Ukraine, two from Venezuela and one from Belarus, police said. The others were 10 Thai women and 40 female visitors from mainland China.
Police arrested them on suspicion of breaching their conditions of stay.
Two local men were also arrested.
Acting Chief Inspector Timothy Cheung Chun-long said police noticed organised vice activities had made a return in April following the January crackdown in which 99 were arrested.
“Investigations showed criminals arranged sex workers to work in subdivided flats in the building,” he said. “We also believe some flat owners and tenants allowed their premises to be used as brothels.”
Several triad gangs controlled the vice activities and paid people to rent the subdivided flats and apply to have electricity, water and internet services connected to evade detection, he said.
A police source said a sex worker charged HK$400 (US$51) to HK$700 per client, but half of that went to the gangs to pay for the flat where the women worked and slept.
“A surveillance camera was fixed outside each flat to monitor their business. Pimps were sent to collect the money regularly,” he said.
The source said the owner of a property – which could be split into three to five subdivided flats – was paid HK$20,000 to HK$30,000 as monthly rent.
After noticing illegal activities, police gathered evidence and then applied for search warrants before the five-hour operation swooped into action on Thursday evening.
At about 7.30pm, nearly 20 undercover officers posing as customers entered the building, where most of the flats between the third and 14th floors had been converted into subdivided flats used as brothels. There are commercial premises on the ground, first and second floors.
About 30 minutes later, about 60 officers carrying search warrants moved in, broke into 80 subdivided flats and made the arrests.
One man, 45, suspected to be a pimp, was arrested outside the building. The second man arrested, a customer, 29, was accused of assaulting a police officer in the operation.
In a follow-up operation on Friday, police arrested two men and two women who owned three flats in the building. The four locals were arrested on suspicion of letting their premises be used as a vice establishment – an offence that carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.
It is understood police are still searching for the owners of another 10 flats in connection with the case.
Cheung said the operation struck a heavy blow on vice activities in the building and the income source of those behind the rackets.
He said police would continue to investigate the gangs involved.
Stressing that regular patrols and enforcement action against illegal vice activities in the building would continue, he said police would consider applying for court orders for six-month closures to tackle owners who allowed their flats to be used as brothels.
Working as a prostitute is not illegal in Hong Kong, but it is against the law to solicit clients, run a brothel of two or more people, live off the earnings of a prostitute, or control a woman for the purpose of prostitution.