Hong Kong police busted prostitution rings in Wan Chai and the New Territories.
According to local reports, on August 30 at around 8 p.m. the Crime Division of Wan Chai District Police and a special team of the Immigration Department raided several flats on Lockhart Road, a street in Hong Kong‘s busy Wan Chai District.
The operations, which were named ‘Thunderbolt 17’ and ‘Tiger’s tail’, were launched after a preliminary investigation initiated by a tip-off.
Police arrested 17 women from mainland China aged between 18 and 41 on charges of breach of conditions of stay. The suspects held Exit-Entry Permits for Travelling to and from Hong Kong and Macau, colloquially known as a Two-way permits. Two-way permits and other types of travel documents such as tourist visas prevent travellers from working for money during their stay. The prohibition includes sex work.
Lockhart Road is often referred to as a ‘red light district‘, famous for its bars and nightclubs, and for the presence of prostitutes soliciting customers. It is located in Wan Chai District, which has been associated with Hong Kong’s prostitution since the 1960 film The World of Suzie Wong.
Areas in the New Territories were also targeted in the operation.
At around midnight police raided flats in On Ning Road, Yuen Long District, detaining 5 women and 4 men of foreign nationality as well as 7 mainland Chinese women holding two-way permits. They were charged with breach of conditions of stay.
Other flats were raided in Yuen Long, Tuen Mun and Tai Po Districts. 61 women aged between 20 and 49 were arrested, among them 31 women from mainland China and 30 local women on charges of breach of conditions of stay and of running unlicensed massage parlours, respectively.
In Hong Kong prostitution is illegal under the Crimes Ordinance. The Ordinance lists off various prostitution-related crimes, including ‘Soliciting for an immoral purpose’, ‘Keeping a vice establishment’, ‘Letting premises for use as a vice establishment’, ‘Living on earnings of prostitution of others’, ‘Causing Prostitution’, ‘Control over persons for purpose of unlawful sexual intercourse or prostitution’, and putting up ‘signs advertising prostitution’. Penalties range from 6 months to 14 years imprisonment as well as pecuniary fines.
Proposals to legalize prostitution in red light districts have been rejected by the Hong Kong government on grounds that they might cause additional issues such as triad involvement, blackmailing and underage prostitution. Undersecretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu stated in April 2016 that he did not support the idea of setting up red light districts. “It would send a negative signal. We cannot be compared with European or other more open countries. We have our own social mores,” he said.
In 2015, 54 persons were arrested by the Police for being involved in procuring or controlling of prostitution, and 163 were arrested for keeping a vice establishment. The same year, 4,589 persons were arrested for taking up unlawful employment involving sex work, an increase from 3,939 persons in 2011.
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