Those who watch over the morality of Beijing's nightlife may have closed down some of the dingier bars in a pre-Olympics "purge", but the oldest profession is alive and well - only, not as open.
Normally every foreigner getting out of a taxi at the entrance to the street full of bars in Sanlitun is bombarded with offers of "lady bar", "massage" or "sex" from the girls and their pimps.
During the Olympics, business has been swept into the sidestreets and clubs. The red light district is not quite as sinful as normal, but it's still far from innocent.
But aren't the police especially strict during the Olympics? asks a foreigner. They only bother about the Chinese, not you foreigners, a soliciting sex worker says.
Just 20 metres away stand two soldiers guarding the entrance of the diplomatic compound. They look on but do nothing. Their job is to stand guard, not stop prostitution.
In fact, prostitution is illegal in China. The girls - and their customers - face being sent to re-education camps. Occasionally the police will detain foreigners for a few days if they are caught in raids on brothels or massage salons.
Where's the Suzie Wong? asks an Olympic tourist seeking the expensive bar by Chaoyang Park with more than its share of attractive women.
You chat up three and score with one, laughs an insider. Semi- professionals, perhaps - beauties with a daytime job financing their Gucci handbags and designer outfits. Or perhaps looking for the big catch - a rich Chinese or foreigner.
It's a dangerous game. Today there are an estimated 700,000 Chinese infected with AIDS, and it would be an achievement if this were only to double in the next two years. UN estimates say the number could rise to several million.
It's why several hundred thousand free condoms have been provided for the more than 10,000 athletes in the Olympic Village and guests in Beijing's hotels.
One of the most famous symbols of prostitution in Beijing has reopened in another signal that the city's bustling vice industry has roared
back to life following an Olympic crackdown.
Maggie's and another bar in Beijing's diplomatic quarter that used to fill nightly with Chinese and foreign prostitutes reopened this week after having been closed since before the August Games.
Maggie's doors opened again on Monday, staff there said, and the bar was crowded this week with its usual assortment of Mongolian working girls flirting with foreign men.
The two venues were among the countless casualties of a Beijing police crackdown aimed at preventing the city's rollicking sex industry from tarnishing the August Olympics.
The campaign saw hostess bars and dodgy massage centres around the city closed for months, and many of the city's street-walkers cleared away. However, vice establishments have been reopening recently and street-walkers have been sighted again as
the security grip ebbs.
Prostitutes had said during the clean-up operation that many sex workers had been driven out of Beijing by police and some of the foreign ones deported.
Basically stamped out during the puritanical Mao Zedong era, prostitution flourishes in today's more open China, with estimates of the country's sex workers ranging as high as 10 million or more.
Sex workers ply their trade with virtual impunity in bars, massage spas, karaoke parlours and the barber shops that are found in many Beijing back alleys and which have nothing to do with haircuts.
Despite the fact that prostitution is illegal, China’s sex trade has become big business. For a country that often views the topic of sex as taboo, the sex trade in China is both prevalent and an open secret. It seems to have become so commercialized
that it has even become part of the corporate scene.
The link between sex and business seems to be somewhat of an open secret. It exists, but few seem willing to discuss it openly, particularly when sex is used as part of business negotiations.
The number of women employed in China’s sex trade industry is estimated in the millions. In Beijing alone, there are 90,000 prostitutes and over 5,000 sex shops, which have opened up over the past decade. Research suggests that 50% of Beijing’s
prostitutes still do not insist clients use condoms. Although China’s statistics on HIV/AIDS cases are hazy, the health risks are certainly alarming.
The common lingo for establishments where such services are available are well known to both locals and foreigners. Barbershop, massage parlour, KTV (karaoke bars) ; all are code words for places to go for a happy ending . A patron no
longer needs to only look for the unscrupulous, rent-by-the-hour hotels, as these establishments are packaged much more professionally these days. Moreover, the extent of business travelers’ expectations for visits to sex trade workers has long since
prompted mainstream hotels to incorporate the sex industry into their services (albeit in a hush-hush sort of way).
It is not printed in any hotel amenities publications, and it will never be found as part of the handy guest guide sitting on the desk in suites; but a solo male traveler may get a surreptitious knock on the door in the middle of the night by a young
woman offering an in-room massage. Or for those less brazen hotels, they may opt for a more subtle midnight phone call. These tactics are so widely known that they are written about in guide books. Even the most upscale bars and clubs are frequented
regularly by a steady stream of prostitutes looking for business.
The link between the sex trade industry and businesses is so pervasive that when it is required to entertain clients, that often includes bringing clients to establishments offering sexual services. And it is not as if only shady businesses or small
companies would ever consider participating in such activities, because even large corporations that are household names do so as well. None will admit to doing so of course, but consider it part of the open secret.
China declares 3 month campaign against prostitution
Police will launch a nationwide crackdown on prostitution, referred to as a malignant tumor on society, until October.
In recent years, police have investigated approximately 140,000 cases of prostitution annually, according to data by the Ministry of Public Security. Nearly 250,000 peope, which include prostitutes and clients, are suspected to be involved
annually. The ministry said it looks into about 383 cases each day.
The three-month crackdown by the Central Committee for Comprehensive Management of Public Security and the ministry started this past weekend and will continue until October, ahead of the 60th anniversary celebration of the founding of the
People's Republic of China. The two agencies will clamp down on anyone who organizes and forces women into prostitution, the ministry said on its website.
Three kinds of violators will be targeted: individuals or groups who force, tempt, permit or introduce women to prostitution; operators of entertainment venues that permit or introduce prostitution; and anyone who conducts illegal activities with
The security agencies also listed three kinds of locales as high-risk: entertainment venues such as dance halls and nightclubs; service businesses such as beauty salons and massage parlors; and public places such as hotels, restaurants and rental
houses, according to a statement by the ministry.
Chen Jiping, vice-director of the security committee, said: Prostitution has become a severe social issue and tangible results should be achieved with this new crackdown. Prostitution has grown in recent years, according to the ministry.
He required the police departments in the country to call upon the public in helping them in the crackdowns.
Police in Beijing have arrested more than 1,100 suspects in connection with prostitution rings, many housed in high-end saunas and entertainment
venues in China's capital, state press said.
During the one-month crackdown, dozens of high-end nightclubs and karaoke bars were shut down, as well as more than 250 hair salons, the China Daily said.
Customers are usually very rich and they pay at least 20,000 yuan (2,900 dollars) for membership and then they will be eligible for special services, the paper quoted one nightclub manager surnamed Ma as saying.
Police officials claimed that most of the nightlife spots offering prostitutes to clients were run by organised crime gangs. [They probably define organised crime gangs as people who run businesses involving prostitution
and the like]
Following 30 years of booming economic growth, prostitution has flourished.
Three months into a crackdown against prostitution and gambling, a senior officer says police have a clear idea of how the businesses are carried
out in Beijing - and a firm resolve to stamp them out.
Qian Jin, vice-head of the Security Corps within the city's Public Security Bureau, told METRO that the operation that started April 14 has involved 9,000 police officers. Qian said 100 officers hit the streets each night along with 30 plain-clothes colleagues.
They have hassled 2,000 KTV (karaoke) clubs and bath houses in the city looking for people enjoying themselves.
Qian said: We are determined to put an end to the following five illegal activities in the entertainment places. I am referring to organizing, housing and offering prostitution; staging obscene shows; setting up casinos; operating irregularly; and
managing a business without qualified documents, such as the permits from the environmental and cultural departments.
Qian said the police raids on KTVs have found that many are operated irregularly , incorporating such things as security doors and alarm systems to make people aware of raids who are deeper inside the building. Some, he said, have closed for
redecoration during the crackdown but have continued to provide sex services for their members.
He said police have also uncovered other deficiencies in the businesses such as broken equipment, poor security practices, a lack of required video surveillance technology, loose management practices and even illegally stored knives and rubber staffs kept
He continued that police will step up the crackdown by continuing to target KTVs and bath houses, this time concentrating on checking employee authorization cards (IC cards) and ensuring workers do not have criminal records connected to prostitution, gambling
or drug addiction: The IC card is a magnetic card carrying their real names that can show if they have a criminal record, especially for pornography. If so, according to Chinese law, they are prohibited from engaging in the entertainment industry
. They are required to swipe their cards when they go to work each day, so we can get a timely grasp of their tracks.
Qian said entertainment places must also employ qualified security guards from formal security companies who have received state training.
Also, entertainment venues are required by law to have a fully functioning CCTV system capable of storing a clear image for 30 days. They are, however, not allowed to set up cameras near the entrance and exit to watch out for the police, he said.
Businesses that fail to meet these obligations can be fined and have their business licenses suspended for up to six months. And enterprises that have their licenses pulled twice in the space of two years and those that have them pulled three times in
total will have their licenses revoked, he said.
Police plan to carry out a one-month clean-up of city bars. Since the crackdown and the tighter regulation of the city's KTV clubs and bath houses, prostitutes have begun to flow to the bars and have continued to engage in prostitution, Qian said.
Handcuffed, shoeless and tied to a rope, these girls are being led through the streets of China as part of a police crackdown
But the images of the girls being frogmarched down the Guangzhou road - with their shoes removed to stop them running away - have shocked many in China.
An outraged Chinese woman named Wan Yu took the images on her mobile phone and posted on the web.
A police spokesman defended the broad daylight action saying that the public humiliation of the women and their customers would have been a further deterrent to other people considering getting involved in prostitution.
Update: Police Slavers Banned from Displaying their Wares
It's taken a while, considering public opinion had already turned against the practice years ago, but the Ministry of Public Security has finally issued an edict saying that police around the country are no longer allowed to publicly shame prostitutes
and johns as a method of stopping the acts from happening.
According to a circular issued by the Ministry of Public Security, provincial security departments must absolutely not conduct activities such as prostitute parades, or anything else that would undermine human dignity, while cracking down on prostitution
in their respective cities.
Guangdong police in Dongguan came under fire after they released pictures of prostitutes they caught handcuffed and barefoot, led through the streets on a rope. Dongguan police backpedaled quickly, arguing that they hadn't meant to publicly shame anyone,
and this was just standard protocol that happened to be photographed and that the media put up.
A crackdown on China's fast-growing sex industry has prompted a backlash, with sex workers demonstrating for the
legalisation of prostitution and an outcry about the treatment of women suspects.
The protest in Wuhan is thought to have been the first of its kind in the country. The small group of women asked onlookers to sign a petition calling for an end to discrimination against sex workers and the scrapping of anti-prostitution laws.
Our society has many problems that are neglected by the public and prostitution is one of them, Ye Haiyan, the activist and sex worker at the forefront of last week's demonstration. She said police had detained her for a few days for her
part in the protest.
Prostitution is widespread and blatant in China, despite frequent crackdowns. Many hotels, hairdressers, massage parlours and karaoke bars make little effort to disguise illicit activity. The World Health Organisation has estimated the country has
4 million sex workers, but academics have suggested the figure is higher.
In May, state media said police had arrested 1,100 suspects from high-end establishments in Beijing alone. But pink-lit hairdressers and massage facilities appear to be operating unhindered in the capital and elsewhere.
Ye, who tweets and blogs under the name Hooligan Sparrow, said the police campaign was harming the health of workers. She launched the Chinese Women's Rights Workshop, distributing condoms and Aids-prevention pamphlets to brothels in Wuhan. But
she said that sex workers were now reluctant to use condoms for fear they would be used as evidence of prostitution. On her website she said she also decided to speak out after seeing women publicly humiliated following police raids.
Zheng Huang, of Shanghai Leyi – an NGO supporting male sex workers – said the crackdown was the most significant for at least a decade. He believed prostitutes have become more vulnerable because they are moving around to avoid police. He said:
Sex workers just need to regain the rights they are supposed to have rather than asking for more rights. For example, many prostitutes do not dare to call the police when they get robbed, because they are afraid of being arrested for their job.
China's Ministry of Public Security (MPS) has claimed that the special campaign to crackdown on prostitution has been effective, with cases of prostitution and obscene performances in entertainment venues in October dropping 18% on a month-on month
The campaign in the latter half of the year attached increased importance to the investigation and punishment of the organizers of prostitution.
The campaign also targeted business operators and the protective umbrellas - sometimes local government officials - that allow prostitution to happen, according to a document released at a ministry work conference.
According to the document, the MPS sent 27 groups of inspectors to 651 entertainment business venues in four municipalities and 20 provinces during the campaign. At some 381 of the venues, cases of prostitution or 'obscene' performance were discovered.
Beijing police have implemented a major operation against escorts working in hotels and expensive residential
The move is though to be significant as it may lead to action against foreign patrons of prostitutions, and possibly involve foreign investors and diplomats, observers said.
The police have arrested a total 112 sex workers including 27 foreign nationals from raids on four businesses.
The case involved the highest number of foreign arrests in Beijing... The crackdown aims to eradicate all social evils that go against the city's endeavors to advocate a healthy, civilized and high-minded lifestyle, the police said in a
The operation involved 340 policemen, who have seized 10 vehicles and 100 mobile phones and 60,000 printed fliers used for soliciting customers.
The usual price for sex workers' services vary from $100 to $400, but escort girls provided by escort companies may charge a lot more. Some hotels, massage parlors and karoke music joints are known to provide similar services.
Three high-end nightclubs are among the 48 entertainment venues shut down in a crackdown between April 20 and May 30 for safety violations, prostitution and pornographic activities, Beijing police said.
The three renowned Beijing nightclubs - Mingheng, Youtang and China Town - engaged in prostitution, while four karaoke bars staged pornographic shows, including striptease dancing, police said.
Beijing police also closed six clubs for supposed safety issues and vowed zero tolerance for fun activities in entertainment venues.