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Prostitution in China

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Title: Prostitution in China  
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Collection: Chinese Law, Crime in China, Prostitution by Country, Prostitution in Asia, Sex Industry in Asia
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Prostitution in China

A prostitution "reeducation center" at a former brothel in Beijing, 1949
"Prostitution in China" redirects here. See also Prostitution in Hong Kong and Prostitution in Taiwan.
  Prostitution legal and regulated
  Prostitution (the exchange of sex for money) legal, but brothels are illegal; prostitution is not regulated
  Prostitution illegal
  No data

Shortly after taking power in 1949, the government corruption and sexually transmitted diseases. For example, a Communist Party official who was a top provincial campaigner against corruption was removed from his post after he was caught in a hotel room with a prostitute.[1]

Prostitution-related activities in mainland China are characterised by diverse types, venues and prices. Prostitutes themselves come from a broad range of social backgrounds. They are almost all female, though in recent years male prostitutes have also emerged. A large number of Russian women work as prostitutes in China.[2] Venues typically include hotels, karaoke venues and beauty salons.

Officially, prostitution is illegal in mainland China.[3] The social organizations or the government of the PRC.

While the sale of sexual intercourse remains illegal throughout mainland China, as of 2013 erotic massage, or more commonly known as massage with "happy endings," is legal in the city of Foshan in Guangdong province. In June of that year, the Foshan Court determined that the sale of erotic massage is not the same as prostitution.[4]


  • History of Prostitution in China 1
    • Xinjiang 1.1
    • Tanka Prostitution 1.2
    • Prostitution during the Maoist era 1.3
  • Prostitution after 1978 2
  • Foreign prostitutes in China 3
    • North Korean prostitutes in China 3.1
    • European prostitutes in China 3.2
    • Vietnamese prostitutes in China 3.3
    • African prostitutes in China 3.4
  • Prostitution in Hong Kong and Macau 4
  • Types and venues 5
  • Legal responses 6
    • Prostitution law 6.1
    • Party disciplinary measures 6.2
  • Policing 7
  • The question of legalisation 8
  • HIV/AIDS 9
  • Prostitution in the media 10
  • See also 11
  • Notes and references 12
  • Further reading 13
  • External links 14

History of Prostitution in China


Prostitution was rife among

  • All-China Women's Federation, Excerpts from the Criminal Law of the PRC. See in particular articles 358–362.
  • Jeffreys, E., A Matter of Choice: Feminist Prostitution Debates and the Example of China.
  • Xin Ren, Prostitution and Employment Opportunities for Women under China's Economic Reform.
  • Pan Suiming, 中国红灯区纪实 ("A true record of China's red-light districts") A sociological study of three prostitution centres. (Chinese)
  • Gifford, R., On the Road in China: Prostitution, Religion Rise, NPR.
  • Child exploitation not new to stricken region
  • Illegal Prostitution Occurring in Massage Parlors and Bathhouses

External links

  • Aizibing: shehui, lunli he falü wenti zhuanjia yantaohui (艾滋病:社会、伦理和法律问题专家研讨会: "Report of the Expert Workshop on HIV and Prostitution: Social, Ethical and Legal Issues"), Beijing: Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, 29–31 October.
  • Gil, V.E. and Anderson, A.F. (1998) "State-sanctioned aggression and the control of prostitution in the People's Republic of China: a review", Aggression and Violent Behaviour, 3: 129-42.
  • Hershatter, G., Dangerous Pleasures: Prostitution and Modernity in Twentieth-Century Shanghai (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press).
  • Jeffreys, E., China, Sex and Prostitution, (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2004).
  • Ruan, F. (1991) Sex in China: Studies in Sexology in Chinese Culture, New York: Plenum Press.
  • Shan Guangnai, Zhongguo changji - guoqu he xianzai (中国娼妓过去和现在: "Chinese Prostitution - Past and Present") (Beijing: Falü chubanshe, 1995).

Further reading

  1. ^ "Chinese anti-corruption official sacked for Russian tryst". Monsters and Critics, 12 April 2007. Retrieved 19 April 2009
  2. ^ Khabalov, Dmitry; Gurko, Fyodor (15 December 2000). "Police bring home 3 sex slaves from China". VladNews. Retrieved 19 April 2009.
  3. ^ "2008 Human Rights Report: China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau)".   Section 5: Discrimination, Societal Abuse, and Trafficking in Persons.
  4. ^ Davis, Carlo (27 June 2013). Happy Endings' Just Got A Little Happier In China"'". Huffington Post. 
  5. ^ Dunnell, Ruth W.; Elliott, Mark C.; Foret, Philippe; Millward, James A (2004). New Qing Imperial History: The Making of Inner Asian Empire at Qing Chengde. Routledge. p. 103.  
  6. ^ Ingeborg Baldauf, Michael Friederich (1994). Bamberger Zentralasienstudien. Schwarz. p. 352.  
  7. ^ Nightingale, Pamela; Skrine, C.P. (2013). Macartney at Kashgar: New Light on British, Chinese and Russian Activities in Sinkiang, 1890-1918. Routledge. p. 124.  
  8. ^ Elizabeth Wheeler Andrew, Katharine Caroline Bushnell (2006). Heathen Slaves and Christian Rulers. Echo Library. p. 11.  
  9. ^ John Mark Carroll (2007). A concise history of Hong Kong (illustrated ed.). Rowman & Littlefield. p. 36.  
  10. ^ Maria Jaschok, Suzanne Miers (1994). Maria Jaschok, Suzanne Miers, ed. Women and Chinese patriarchy: submission, servitude, and escape (illustrated ed.). Zed Books. p. 237.  
  11. ^ Henry J. Lethbridge (1978). Hong Kong, stability and change: a collection of essays. Oxford University Press. p. 75. Retrieved 1 November 2011. but another source of supply was the daughters of the tanka, the boat population of kwangtung 
  12. ^ Henry J. Lethbridge (1978). Hong Kong, stability and change: a collection of essays. Oxford University Press. p. 75. Retrieved 1 November 2011. The Tanka, it seems, not only supplied foreign shipping with provisions but foreigners with mistresses. They also supplied brothels with some of their inmates. As a socially disadvantaged group, they found prostitution a convenient 
  13. ^ Henry J. Lethbridge (1978). Hong Kong, stability and change: a collection of essays. Oxford University Press. p. 210. Retrieved 1 November 2011. In the early days, such women were found usually among the Tanka boat population, a pariah group that infested the Pearl River delta region. A few of these women achieved the status of 'protected' woman (a kept mistress) and were 
  14. ^ Fanny M. Cheung (1997). Fanny M. Cheung, ed. EnGendering Hong Kong society: a gender perspective of women's status (illustrated ed.). Chinese University Press. p. 348.  
  15. ^ Virgil K. Y. Ho (2005). Understanding Canton: rethinking popular culture in the republican period (illustrated ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 256.  
  16. ^ Virgil K. Y. Ho (2005). Understanding Canton: rethinking popular culture in the republican period (illustrated ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 249.  
  17. ^ the University of MichiganAustralian National University. Institute of Advanced Studies (1993). East Asian history, Volumes 5-6. Institute of Advanced Studies, Australian National University. p. 110. Retrieved 1 November 2011. In a late nineteenth-century popular novel, the bed-chamber of a 'saltwater girl ' (low-class Tanka prostitute who served foreigners), is described as nicely decorated with a number of Western household objects, which startles the young observer who is crazy about things western 
  18. ^ the University of MichiganAustralian National University. Institute of Advanced Studies (1993). East Asian history, Volumes 5-6. Institute of Advanced Studies, Australian National University. p. 102. Retrieved 1 November 2011. Ethnic prejudice towards the Tanka (boat- people) women persisted throughout the Republican period. These women continued to be mistaken for prostitutes, probably because most of those who peddled ferry services between Canton and 
  19. ^ Virgil K. Y. Ho (2005). Understanding Canton: rethinking popular culture in the republican period (illustrated ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 228.  
  20. ^ Peter Hodge (1980). Peter Hodge, ed. Community problems and social work in Southeast Asia: the Hong Kong and Singapore experience. Hong Kong University Press. p. 196.  
  21. ^ Ejeas, Volume 1. Brill. 2001. p. 112. Retrieved 5 November 2011. A popular contemporary magazine which followed closely the news in the 'flower business' (huashi) so recorded at least one case of such career advancement that occurred to a Tanka (boat-people) prostitute in Canton.44 To say that all 
  22. ^ the University of MichiganBrill Academic Publishers (2001). European journal of East Asian studies, Volumes 1-2. Brill. p. 112. Retrieved 5 November 2011. at least one case of such career advancement that occurred to a Tanka (boat-people) prostitute in Canton.44 To say 
  23. ^ Henry J. Lethbridge (1978). Hong Kong, stability and change: a collection of essays. Oxford University Press. p. 75. Retrieved 1 November 2011. This exceptional class of Chinese residents here in Hong Kong consists principally of the women known in Hong Kong by the popular nickname " ham-shui- mui " (lit. salt water girls), applied to these members of the so-called Tan-ka or boat 
  24. ^ Peter Hodge (1980). Peter Hodge, ed. Community problems and social work in Southeast Asia: the Hong Kong and Singapore experience. Hong Kong University Press. p. 33.  
  25. ^ Elizabeth Wheeler Andrew, Katharine Caroline Bushnell (2006). Heathen Slaves and Christian Rulers. Echo Library. p. 13.  
  26. ^ Great Britain. Parliament (March 1882). Correspondence respecting the alleged existence of Chinese slavery in Hong Kong: presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty. Volume 3185 of C (Series) (Great Britain. Parliament) (reprint ed.). LONDON: Printed by G.E. Eyre and W. Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O. p. 54. Retrieved 1 November 2011. 
  27. ^ a b [2]
  28. ^ "罗瑞卿一夜扫除北平妓女 (Luo Ruiqing eradicates Beiping's prostitutes in a single night)". 2000. Retrieved 20 November 2005. Archived from the original on 14 May 2002.
  29. ^ Ed. Ma Weigang (1993). 禁娼禁毒 (On Strictly Forbidding Prostitution and Drugs). Beijing: Juguan jiaoyu chubanshe. p. 8.
  30. ^ 孙士东 (Sun Shidong) (6 July 2005). "新中国取缔妓院前后 (The banning of brothels in the new China from beginning to end)". Retrieved 24 November 2005 | date=6 July 2005
  31. ^ 江沛 (Jiang Pei). "天津娼业改造问题述论:1949–1957 (Discussion of questions in relation to reform of the prostitution industry in Tianjin)". Retrieved 24 November 2005
  32. ^ Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China. "Historic Liberation of Chinese Women, The Situation Of Chinese Women. Retrieved on 22 November 2005.
  33. ^ "短评解放妓女 (A Brief Commentary on the Liberation of Female Prostitutes)". People's Daily, 22 November 1949.
  34. ^ Hershatter, G (1997). Dangerous Pleasures: Prostitution and Modernity in Twentieth-Century Shanghai. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. pp. 331–3.
  35. ^ Shan Guangnai (1995). 中国娼妓过去和现在 (Chinese Prostitution - Past and Present). Beijing: 法律出版社 (Legal Press). p. 3.
  36. ^ Pan Suiming (1996). "禁娼:为谁服务?(The prohibition of prostitution: whom does it serve?)" in 艾滋病:社会、伦理和法律问题专家研讨会 (Report of the Expert Workshop on HIV and Prostitution: Social, Ethical and Legal Issues). Beijing: Academy of Social Sciences. pp. 20–1.
  37. ^ Jeffreys, E (2004). China, Sex and Prostitution. London: RoutledgeCurzon. p. 97.
  38. ^ Xin Ren (1999). "Prostitution and economic modernisation of China", Violence Against Women 5. pp.1411–1414.
  39. ^ Zhang Ping (1993). "当今中国社会病 Social problems in contemporary China)". Jindun 12. p. 27.
  40. ^ a b Zhong Wei. "A Close Look at China's Sex Industry". Retrieved 30 November 2005. Archived from the original on 21 April 2002.
  41. ^ Duncan Hewitt, BBC News: Teenage prostitution case shocks China
  42. ^ Jeffreys, Elaine (2012). Prostitution Scandals in China: Policing, Media and Society. Oxon: Routledge. p. 4. 
  43. ^ Jeffreys, E. p. 98, note 6
  44. ^ Gil, V.E.; Wang, M.S.; Anderson, A.F.; Guo, M.L.; Wu, Z.O. (1996). "Plum blossoms and pheasants: prostitutes, prostitution, and social control measures in contemporary China" International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology 38. p. 319.
  45. ^ Wang Haibo (3 July 2003). "女大学生卖淫,我不相信是假新闻 (Female university students selling sex, I don't believe it's false news)". Hong wang. Retrieved 24 November 2005. Archived from the original on 13 September 2003.
  46. ^ Pan Suiming, "中国红灯区纪实 (A true record of China's red-light districts)". Retrieved 15 December 2005.
  47. ^ McCurry, J.; Allison, R. (9 March 2004). "40m bachelors and no women ... the birth of a new problem for China". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 December 2005.
  48. ^ Anderson A. and Gil V. (1999). "Prostitution and public policy in the People's Republic of China: an analysis of the rehabilitative ideal".International Criminal Justice Review 4 (23). p. 28.
  49. ^ Malhotra, A. (February 1994). "Prostitution, triads and corruption - Shanghai's dark side". Asia, Inc. 32. pp. 32–9.
  50. ^ Pan. p. 21, note 6.
  51. ^ Xin. p. 1423, note 8.
  52. ^ Pan Suiming. 三谈地下性产业 (The 'underground sex industry). p.55, note 6.
  53. ^ Zhang, pp. 25–9, note 9.
  54. ^ Hughes, D., et al. China and Hong Kong: Facts on Trafficking and Prostitution. Coalition Against Trafficking in Women. Retrieved 2 December 2005.
  55. ^ CWA Newsletter. Child Workers in Asia 13 (2–3), 1997. Retrieved 2 December 2005.
  56. ^ Wang Xingjuan (1996). 当前卖淫嫖娼的现象问题 (Some problems concerning the current phenomenon of selling and buying sex). pp. 27–8, note 6.
  57. ^ "Consensus and recommendations on HIV and prostitution", note 6 at 104–6.
  58. ^ "A Joint Assessment of HIV/AIDS Prevention, Treatment and Care in China". State Council HIV/AIDS Working Committee Office and UN Theme Group on HIV/AIDS in China, 2004.
  59. ^ Zhang Feng (27 October 2005). "HIV/AIDS battle enters new phase". China Daily. Retrieved 3 December 2005.
  60. ^ Douglas, Carol Anne (3 March 2004). "China: Korean women forced into sex slavery". The Washington Post.
  61. ^ a b Jeong, Ji Sun (April 2004). "Intervention Agenda Item 12: Elimination of Violence Against Women". United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Retrieved 23 April 2009.
  62. ^ Hornblower, Margot (24 June 2001). "The Skin Trade". Time Magazine. Retrieved 19 April 2009.
  63. ^ Melissa Hope Ditmore (2006). Melissa Hope Ditmore, ed. Encyclopedia of prostitution and sex work, Volume 1 (illustrated ed.). Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 212.  
  64. ^ Roy Rowan (2008). Chasing the Dragon: A Veteran Journalist's Firsthand Account of the 1946-9 Chinese Revolution (illustrated ed.). Globe Pequot. p. 172.  
  65. ^ Kenneth Hugh De Courcy, John De Courcy (1978). Intelligence digest, Volume 1996. Intelligence International Ltd. Retrieved 29 February 2012. Triads in Portugal. Sources in Lisbon say that Chinese triad gangs from the Portuguese colony of Macau are setting up in Portugal ahead of the handover of Macau to China in 1999. Security sources fear that as many as 1000 triad members could settle in Portugal. They are already involved in securing Portuguese citizenship for Macau residents by arranging marriages of convenience with Portuguese prostitutes. 
  66. ^ Escorts in Shanghai
  67. ^ Michael Hitchcock (2009). Tourism in Southeast Asia: challenges and new directions. NIAS Press. p. 211.  
  68. ^ "Human traffickers take the route from Africa to Asia | Asia | DW.DE | 07.03.2012". Retrieved 1 October 2014. 
  69. ^ SA a human-trafficking hot spot, conference hears
  70. ^ "Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery - Macau". Retrieved 1 October 2014. 
  71. ^ "Sex Work in China". Asia Monitor Resource Centre. Retrieved 23 April 2009. Archived from the original on 15 January 2001.
  72. ^ Niklas Dougherty (2006). "Prostitution in contemporary China The case of Shanghai Jiading". Lund university. p. 16. Retrieved 23 August 2104. 
  73. ^ "Degrading Online Mistress Ads Pimp Out Chinese University Students". eChinacities (originally  
  74. ^ Pan, pp. 52–7, note 18.
  75. ^ Act of the People's Republic of China for Security Administration Punishment.
  76. ^ Criminal Law and the Criminal Procedure Law of the People's Republic of China. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press (1984). Articles 140, 169.
  77. ^ Note 15, Article 30, at 695–6.
  78. ^ Quanguo renda changweihui, xingfashi bianzhu, fazhi gongzuo weiyuanhui (Criminal Law Office and the Legal Council of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress) (1991). 关于严禁卖淫嫖娼的决定和关于严惩拐卖绑架妇女儿童的犯罪分子的决定 (An Explanation of the Decision on Strictly Forbidding the Selling and Buying of Sex and the Decision on the Severe Punishment of Criminals Who Abduct and Traffic in or Kidnap Women and Children). Zhonggguo jiancha chubanshe.
  79. ^ Articles 36, 37.
  80. ^ 1997 Criminal Code of the People's Republic of China trans. Wei Luo, (Buffalo, New York: W.S. Hein & Co., 1998), Articles 358, 359, at 186–8.
  81. ^ "Chinese tycoon convicted of running prostitution, gambling ring sentenced to death"., 24 January 2005. Retrieved 2 December 2005.
  82. ^ Note 19, Article 360, at 187.
  83. ^ "China court hears homosexual prostitution case". China Daily, 8 February 2004. Retrieved 2 December 2005.
  84. ^ Note 19, Articles 361, 362, at 187–8.
  85. ^ 中华人民共和国国务院 guowuyuan (State Council of the PRC) (1999). 娱乐场所管理条例 (Regulations concerning the management of public places of entertainment). Wenhua chubanshe. Articles 132, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138.
  86. ^ "Communist Party discipline regulations". Xinhua News Agency, 1999., trans. Selected World Broadcasts - China, 14 April, FE/2892 S2/1-18.
  87. ^ For example, "Guangdong court judge sacked for hiring prostitutes" Xinhua, 26 September 2000.
  88. ^ Jeffreys, note 6 at 107.
  89. ^ Ouyang Tao (1994) "Dangjin woguo maiyin piaochang fanzui de zhuangshi tedian ji duice" [当今我国卖淫嫖娼犯罪的壮实特点及对策: Prostitution offences in contemporary China: characteristics and countermeasures], Fanzui yu gaizao yanjiu, 10: 15–18.
  90. ^ 23岁"妈咪"网上介绍小姐 称学生包夜600 (23-year-old "Mummy" introduces ladies on the internet, students for 600 a night). Retrieved 25 November 2005.
  91. ^ Hershatter, G., Dangerous Pleasures: Prostitution and Modernity in Twentieth-Century Shanghai (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press) at 363.
  92. ^ Jeffreys, E., "Feminist prostitution debates: Are there any sex workers in China?" in McLaren, A. E., Chinese Women - Living and Working (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2004) at 98.
  93. ^ Jeffreys, note 41 at 94.
  94. ^ Human Rights in China Can dialogue improve China's human rights situation? Report on the implementation of CEDAW in the People's Republic of China, 2000. Retrieved 2 December 2005.
  95. ^ "Sex worker Ye Haiyan held in China's 1st rally to legalize prostitution - What's On Xiamen". Retrieved 1 October 2014. 
  96. ^ Zhang Beichuan, Chen Guanzhi, Li Kefu and Li Xiufang "Zhonggguo mou chengshi jinü diaocha" [中国某城市妓女调查: "A survey of female prostitutes in a Chinese city"], note 6.
  97. ^ See for example Pan, note 6.
  98. ^ Li Dun (1996) "Dui aizibing yu maiyin de zhengce he falü pingjia" [对艾滋病与卖淫的政策和法律评价: "An evaluation of China's policies and laws concerning AIDS and prostitution"] note 6 at 16–17.
  99. ^ Zhang Zhiping "Does China need a red-light district?", Beijing Review, 12 June 2000 at 28–33; Settle, E., Legalise prostitution in China, South China Morning Post, 29 July 2004. Retrieved 2 December 2005.
  100. ^ Peratis, K. and Flores, J.R. Symposium (voluntary prostitution), Insight on the News, 17 July 2000. Retrieved 2 December 2005.
  101. ^ Pan Suiming, cited in Zhang Zhiping, note 50 at 32–3.
  102. ^ Jeffreys, note 7 at 128.
  103. ^ a b "China tries to stop spread of HIV/AIDS among prostitutes". CNN. 21 June 2009. Retrieved 24 November 2009. 
  104. ^ a b "AIDS and the elderly". China Daily. 11 January 2010. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  105. ^ Japanese orgy in Zhuhai hotel sparks Chinese fury, People's Daily, 27 September 2003. Retrieved 2 December 2005.
  106. ^ Zheng Caixiong, HK LegCo candidate arrested for taking prostitutes, China Daily, 18 August 2004. Retrieved 2 December 2005.
  107. ^ Jiu Dan, Wuya [乌鸦: Crows] (Changjiang wenyi chubanshe, 2001).

Notes and references

See also

The 2001 independent film Seafood, by Zhu Wen, was an even more frank depiction of prostitution, this time of the complicated relationship between prostitution and law enforcement. In the film, a Beijing prostitute goes to a seaside resort to commit suicide. Her attempt is intervened by a police officer who tries to redeem her, but also inflicts upon her many instances of sexual assault. Both films, whilst being critically acclaimed abroad, performed poorly in mainland China, only partially due to government restrictions on distribution. The depiction of prostitution in fiction, by comparison, has fared slightly better. The most notable author on the subject is the young writer Jiu Dan, whose portrayal of Chinese prostitutes in Singapore in her novel Wuya, was extremely controversial.[107]

Prostitution has emerged as a subject of art in recent years, particularly in Chinese cinema. Li Shaohong's 1995 film Blush begins in 1949 with the rounding up of prostitutes in Shanghai for "reeducation", and proceeds to tell the story of a love triangle between two prostitutes and one of their former clients. One of the prostitutes, Xiaoe, attempts to hang herself in reeducation. When asked to explain the reason, she says she was born in the brothel and enjoyed her lifestyle there - thereby challenging the government-sanctioned perspective of prostitution. The 1998 film Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl was a dramatic portrayal of "invisible" prostitution in the rural China during the Maoist era.

The spread of prostitution practices has introduced a large quantity of anti-Japanese sentiment, was widely publicised and met with considerable outrage.[105] Another highly publicised case was that of Alex Ho Wai-to, then a Democratic Party candidate for the Legislative Council of Hong Kong, who was given a six-month re-education through labor sentence for hiring a prostitute.[106]

Prostitution in the media

Rising HIV/AIDS rates among Chinese's elderly has been partially attributed to the use of sex workers.[104]

According to UNAIDS, 0.5% of Chinese sex workers are infected with HIV.[103] One study reported that 5% of low-cost sex workers were infected.[104] In one part of Yunnan province, the infection rate is estimated to be as high as 7%. The Chinese government has initiated programs to educate sex workers in HIV/AIDS prevention.[103]


While prostitution controls have been relaxed at a local level, there is no impetus for legalisation at the central government level. Importantly, legalisation does not have much public support.[99] Given the underdeveloped nature of the Chinese economy and legal system, there is an argument that legalisation would further complicate the already difficult task of establishing the legal responsibility for third-party involvement in forced prostitution and the traffic in women.[100] Surveys conducted in China suggest that clandestine forms of prostitution will continue to proliferate alongside the establishment of legal prostitution businesses, because of social sanctions against working or patronising a red-light district.[101] Problems associated with female employment also limit the effectiveness of legalisation. These include the lack of independent trade unions, and limited access of individuals to civil redress with regard to occupational health and safety issues.[102]

Central guidelines laid down by the CPC do not permit the public advocacy of the legalisation of prostitution. Arguments concerning legalisation are not absent, however, from mainland China. On the contrary, some commentators contend that legally recognising the sex industry, in conjunction with further economic development, will ultimately reduce the number of women in prostitution.[96] Domestic commentators have also been highly critical of the PRC's prostitution controls, with a consistent Marxist-informed focus of complaint being the gender-biased and discriminatory nature of such controls, as well as human rights abuses.[97] Some commentators in China and overseas contend that the PRC's policy of banning prostitution is problematic because it hinders the task of developing measures to prevent the spread of HIV.[98]

[95] A number of international

The illegal activities and problems associated with prostitution had led some to believe that there would be benefits if prostitution was legalized.

The question of legalisation

Chinese police have, however, proven unable to effectively police higher tier prostitution practices. The nature of concubinage and second wife practices makes it more suited as a target of social action campaigns rather than conventional police action. Because of social changes, for example, Chinese police are now professionally constrained not to intrude on people's personal relationships in an overt or coercive manner.[93] Police forces around China also differ as to how they approach the subject. In some areas, "massage parlours" on main streets are known full well to be brothels, but are generally left to function without hindrance, barring occasional raids.

The primary target of the PRC's prostitution controls throughout the 1990s has been China's burgeoning hospitality and entertainment industry. These culminated in the "strike hard" campaigns of late 1999 and 2000. Whilst such campaigns may have failed to eradicate prostitution in toto, there is some evidence that regulation of China's recreational venues has helped to create a legitimate female service worker with the right to refuse to engage in practices repugnant to the "valid labour contract", as well as the right to be free from sexual harassment in the workplace.[92]

In tandem with the long-term task of developing preventative policing, the much more visible form of policing have been periodic police-led campaigns. Anti-prostitution campaigns have been accompanied by nationwide "media blitzes" to publicise the PRC's laws and regulations. This is typically followed by the announcement of arrest statistics, and then by sober official statements suggesting that the struggle to eliminate prostitution will be a long one. The use of campaigns has been criticised for their reliance on an outdated "ideological" construction and an equally outmoded campaign formula of the 1950s.[91]

In response, sellers and buyers of sex have adopted a wide range of tactics designed to avoid apprehension. The spatial mobility which is afforded by modern communications systems, such as mobile phones and pagers, and by modern forms of transportation, such as taxis and private cars, has severely reduced the ability of police to determine exactly who is engaged in acts of solicitation.[89] Prostitutes have also begun using the internet, in particular instant messaging software such as QQ, to attract customers.[90] In 2004, PlayChina, an online prostitution referral service, was shut down by police.

Despite the position of the law, prostitutes are often treated as quasi-criminals by the fine.[88]


As a result of strong calls to curb official corruption, during the mid to late 1990s, a whole host of regulations were also introduced to ban government employees both from running recreational venues and from protecting illegal business operations. The 1997 Communist Party Discipline Regulations, for example, contain specific provisions to the effect that party members will be stripped of their posts for using their position and/or public funds to keep a "second wife", a "hired wife", and to buy sexual services.[86] These measures are being policed via the practice established in 1998 of auditing government officials, and thereby combining the forces of the CPC's disciplinary committees with those of the State Auditing Administration. Following the introduction of these measures, the Chinese media has publicised numerous cases of government officials being convicted and disciplined for abusing their positions for prostitution.[87]

Party disciplinary measures

The 1997 criminal code codified provisions in the 1991 Decision, establishing a system of controls over social place, specifically places of leisure and entertainment.[84] The ultimate goal is to stop managers and workers within the predominantly male-run and male-patronised hospitality and service industry from profiting from and/or encouraging the prostitution of others. Government intervention in commercial recreation has found concrete expression in the form of the 1999 "Regulations concerning the management of public places of entertainment". The provisions proscribe a range of commercial practices that characterise the activities of female "hostesses".[85] These laws have been further reinforced via the introduction of localised licensing measures that bear directly on the interior spatial organisation of recreational venues.

The PRC's revised bodily injury, etc.[80][81] The activities of first-party participants continue to be regulated in practice according to administrative law, with the exceptions of anyone who sells or buys prostitutional sex in the full knowledge that they are infected with an STD; and anyone who has prostitutional sex with a child under 14 years of age.[82] Since 2003, male homosexual prostitution has also been prosecuted under the law.[83]

Prostitution only became a distinct object of statutory classification in the early 1990s. Responding to requests from the Ministry of Public Security and the All-China Women's Federation, the National People's Congress passed legislation that significantly expanded the range and scope of prostitution controls: the 1991 Decision on Strictly Forbidding the Selling and Buying of Sex and the 1991 Decision on the Severe Punishment of Criminals Who Abduct and Traffic in or Kidnap Women and Children.[78] Adding symbolic weight to these enhanced law enforcement controls was the 1992 Law on Protecting the Rights and Interests of Women, which defines prostitution as a social practice that abrogates the inherent rights of women to personhood.[79]

Until the 1980s, the subject of prostitution was not viewed as a major concern for the National People's Congress. The PRC's first criminal code, the Criminal Law and the Criminal Procedure Law of 1979 made no explicit reference to the activities of prostitutes and prostitute clients.[76] Legal control of prostitution was effected on the basis of provincial rulings and localised policing initiatives until the introduction of the "Security administration punishment regulations" in 1987. The Regulations makes it an offence to "sell sex" (卖淫) and to "have illicit relations with a prostitute" (嫖宿暗娼).[77]

Prostitution law

The PRC rejects the argument that prostitution is an unremarkable transaction between consenting individuals and that prohibition laws constitute a violation of administrative sanctions, rather than through the criminal code.

Legal responses

The lowest two tiers are characterised by a more straightforward exchange of sex for financial or material recompense. They are neither explicitly linked to government corruption, nor directly mediated through China's new commercial recreational business sector. Women who sell sex in the lowest two tiers usually do so in return for small sums of money, food and shelter.

Seventh tier - xiagongpeng (下工棚 "down the work shack")
Women who sell sex to the transient labour force of male workers from the rural countryside.
Sixth tier - jienü (街女 "street girls")
Women who solicit male buyers of sex on the streets.
Fifth tier - falangmei (发廊妹 "hairdressing salon sisters")
Women who work in places that offer commercial sexual services under the guise of massage or health and beauty treatments; for instance, in health and fitness centres, beauty parlours, barber shops, bathhouses and saunas. Common activities in these premises are masturbation or oral sex.
Fourth tier - "doorbell girls" (叮咚小姐 "dingdong ladies")
Women who solicit potential buyers of sex by phoning rooms in a given hotel.

Women who perform sexual acts with men in karaoke/dance venues, bars, restaurants, teahouses and other venues and who receive financial recompense in the form of tips from the individual men they accompany, as well as from a share of the profits generated by informal service charges on the use of facilities and the consumption of food and beverages. A common euphemism for such hostesses is sanpei xiaojie (三陪小姐: "ladies of the three accompaniments"). In theory, the "three accompaniments" are chatting, drinking and dancing with their clients. In practice, the "three accompaniments" more often refers to dancing with, drinking with, and being publicly groped by their clients. These women often begin by allowing their clients to fondle or intimately caress their bodies, then if the client is eager, will engage in sexual intercourse.

A hair salon where prostitutes work in Bao'an District, Shenzhen. Brothels are often disguised as hair salons, or they operate out of working hair salons.
Third tier - santing (三厅 "three halls")

The first and second tiers have become the focus of heated public debate because they are explicitly linked to government corruption. Many domestic commentators contend that these practices constitute a concrete expression of "bourgeois rights".[74] The All-China Women's Federation, as one of the major vehicles of feminism in the PRC, as well as women's groups in Hong Kong and Taiwan, have been actively involved in efforts to eradicate this form of "concubinage" as practices that violate the emotional and economic surety of the marriage contract.[75]

Pimps give out their business cards to potential customers. A prostitute can be sent to a hotel room upon request.
Second tier - baopo (包婆 "packaged wife")
Women who accompany high class clients for a fixed duration of time, for example, during the course of a business trip, and receive a set payment for doing so.
First tier - baoernai (包二奶)
Women who act as the "second wives" of men with money and influential positions, including government officials and entrepreneurs from the mainland, as well as overseas businessmen. This practice is defined as prostitution on the grounds that women in question actively solicit men who can provide them with fixed-term accommodation and a regular allowance. Women who engage in these acts will sometimes co-habit with their "clients" and may even have ambitions to become a real wife. Illegal online “College Concubine Agencies” have appeared, charging a fee to put men in contact with female university students who wish to become mistresses.[73]

Chinese police categorise prostitution practices according to a descending hierarchy of seven tiers, though this typology does not exhaust the forms of practices that exist.[71] These tiers highlight the heterogeneous nature of prostitution and prostitutes. While they are all classified as prostitutes, the services they offer can be very different. Within some tiers, for example, there is still some revulsion to the acts of anal sex and oral sex. In parallel with the wide range of backgrounds for prostitutes, male buyers of sex also come from a wide range of occupational backgrounds. According to the local police, in China there are seven categories of prostitutes:[72]

Types and venues

Hong Kong and Macau are special administrative regions of China and subject to different laws: prostitution in Hong Kong is legal, as is prostitution in Macau. This has led to a higher incidence of prostitution in these regions than in mainland China. Women travel from mainland China to Hong Kong and Macau in order to engage in the trade. There are also allegations of women being trafficked for the purpose. The trafficked women are said to come from mainland China, Mongolia, Southeast Asia, Europe, and South Africa.[69][70]

Prostitution in Hong Kong and Macau

Every year, thousands of women from Kenya, Rwanda or Uganda are ending up in the brothels of China, Indonesia and Malaysia.[68]

African prostitutes in China

Many Vietnamese women travel from Lao Cai in Vietnam to Hekou County in China to work in brothels. They provide sex mainly to Chinese men.[67]

Vietnamese prostitutes in China

Today, many European prostitutes in China market themselves as escorts to attract the attention of visiting businessmen and richer Chinese clients. They may work independently or through an escort agency and advertise their services through the internet. [66]

By 1930 there were about 8000 White Russian prostitutes in Shanghai.[27]

Some Portuguese prostitutes married Chinese triad members from Macau before China took it back from Portugal, providing them with access to Portuguese citizenship.[65]

During the 19th century[63] and in contemporary times, Portuguese prostitutes have operated in Macau.[64]

Bars in major Chinese cities offer blonde, blue-eyed Russian "hostesses".[62]

European prostitutes in China

According to a Ji Sun Jeong of A Woman's Voice International, "60 to 70% of North Korean defectors to China are women, and 70 to 80% of whom are victims of human trafficking."[61] Violent abuse starts in apartments near the border, from where the women are then moved to cities further away to work as sex slaves. When Chinese authorities arrest these North Korean sex slaves, they repatriate them. North Korean authorities keep such repatriates in penal labour colonies (and/or execute them), execute any Chinese-fathered babies of theirs "to protect North Korean pure blood" and force abortions on all pregnant repatriates not executed.[61]

North Korean women are increasingly falling victim to sex exploitation in China attempting to escape poverty and harsh conditions in their homeland. About 10,000 women (The Washington Post '​s Carol Douglas, however, claimed that the number was as high as 100,000[60]) are reported to have escaped from North Korea to China; according to human rights groups, many of them are forced into sexual slavery..

North Korean prostitutes in China

Foreign prostitutes in China

Sexually transmitted diseases also made a resurgence around the same time as prostitution, and have been directly linked to prostitution. There are fears that prostitution may become the main route of HIV transmission as it has in developing countries such as Thailand and India.[57] Some regions have introduced a policy of 100% condom use, inspired by a similar measure in Thailand. Other interventions have been introduced recently at some sites, including STI services, peer education and voluntary counselling and testing for HIV.[58][59]

Apart from incidences of violence directly associated with prostitution, an increasing number of women who sell sex have been physically assaulted, and even murdered, in the course of attempts to steal their money and property.[51] There have also been a growing number of criminal acts, especially incidences of theft and crime rings are increasingly trafficking women into and out of China for the sex trade, sometimes forcibly and after multiple acts of rape.[53][54][55] Mainland China also has a growing number of "heroin hookers", whose drug addictions are often connected to international and domestic crime rackets.[56]

Prostitution is often directly linked to low-level government corruption. Many local officials believe that encouraging prostitution in recreational business operations will bring economic benefits by developing the tourism and hospitality industries and generating a significant source of tax revenue.[48] On occasion, police have been implicated in the running of high grade hotels where prostitution activities occur, or accepting bribes and demanding sexual favours to ignore the existence of prostitution activities.[49] Government corruption is also involved in a more indirect form — the widespread abuse of public funds to finance consumption of sex services. Pan Suiming contends that China has a specific type of prostitution that entails a bargain between those who use their power and authority in government to obtain sex and those who use sex to obtain privileges.[50]

The revival of prostitution was initially associated with China's eastern, coastal cities, but since the early 1990s at least, local media have reported on prostitution scandals in the economic hinterlands, incorporating such remote and underdeveloped regions as Yunnan,[41] Guizhou, and Tibet.[42] In the 1980s, the typical seller of sex was a poorly educated, young female rural migrant from populous, relatively remote provinces such as Sichuan and Hunan. Over the past decade, there has been a recognition that the majority of women who enter prostitution do so of their own accord.[43][44] The potential benefits of prostitution as an alternative form of employment include greater disposable income, access to upwardly mobile social circles and lifestyle options. The state-controlled media have focused attention on urban residents engaging in prostitution, especially university-educated women.[45] There also seems to be a growing acceptance of prostitution. In a 1997 study, 46.8% of undergraduates in Beijing admitted to having considered receiving prostitution services.[46] On the demand side, prostitution has been associated with the gender imbalances brought about by the one-child policy.[47]

The resurgence of prostitution in mainland China has coincided with the introduction of Deng Xiaoping's liberalisation of Chinese economic policy in 1978. According to the incomplete statistics composed on the basis of nationwide crackdowns, the rate of prostitution in China has been rising every year since 1982.[37] Between 1989 and 1990, 243,183 people were apprehended for prostitution-related activities.[38] Zhang Ping estimates that such police figures only account for around 25–30 percent of the total number of people who are actually involved.[39] Prostitution is an increasingly large part of the Chinese economy, employing perhaps 10 million people, with an annual level of consumption of possibly 1 trillion RMB.[40] Following a 2000 police campaign, Chinese economist Yang Fan estimated that the Chinese GDP slumped by 1%, as a result of decreased spending by newly unemployed female prostitutes.[40]

Prostitution-related arrests during
police campaigns (1983–1999)
year prostitution-related arrests
1983 46,534
1989–90 243,183
1996–7 approx. 250,000
1998 189,972
1999 216,660

Prostitution after 1978

In accordance with Marxist theory, women who sold sex were viewed as being forced into prostitution in order to survive. The eradication of prostitution was thus vaunted as one of the major accomplishments of the Communist government and evidence of the primacy of Chinese Marxism.[32][33] Prostitution did not exist as a serious object of concern in China for a period of nearly three decades. Recent studies have demonstrated, however, that the disappearance of prostitution under the Maoist regime was far from complete.[34][35] Pan Suiming, one of China's leading experts on prostitution, argues that "invisible" prostitution — in the form of women providing sexual services to cadres in exchange for certain privileges — became a distinctive feature of Maoist China, particularly towards the end of the Cultural Revolution.[36]

By the early 1960s, such measures had basically wiped out visible forms of prostitution from mainland China. According to the PRC government, venereal diseases were almost completely eliminated from the mainland contemporaneously with the control of prostitution. To mark this victory, all 29 venereal disease research institutes were closed in 1964.

Due to the enormity of social issues that had to be addressed, and the limited budgets and human resources of local governments, most cities adopted the slower approach of first controlling and then prohibiting brothel-prostitution.[29] This method was used in Tianjin, Shanghai and Wuhan.[30][31] Typically it involved a system of governmental administration which controlled brothel activities and discouraged male patrons. The combined effect of such measures was to gradually reduce the number of brothels in each city until the point where a "Beijing-style" closure of the remaining brothels was deemed feasible and reeducation could begin. Reeducation programs were undertaken on the largest scale in Shanghai, where the number of sex workers had grown to 100,000 following the Second Sino-Japanese War.

Following the Communist Party of China's victory in 1949, local government authorities were charged with the task of eliminating prostitution. One month after the Communist takeover of Beijing on 3 February 1949, the new municipal government under Ye Jianying announced a policy to control the city's many brothels. On 21 November, all 224 of Beijing's establishments were shut down; 1286 prostitutes and 434 owners, procurers, and pimps were arrested in the space of 12 hours by an estimated 2400 cadres.[28] Not surprisingly, the Beijing campaign has been much celebrated in historical accounts.

Prostitution during the Maoist era

By 1930 there were about 8000 White Russian prostitutes in Shanghai[27]

A report called "Correspondence respecting the alleged existence of Chinese slavery in Hong Kong: presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty" was presented to the English Parliament in 1882 concerning the existene of slavery in Hong Kong, of which many were Tanka girls serving as prostitutes or mistresses to westerners.[26]

Tanka women who worked as prostitutes for foreigners also commonly kept a "nursery" Tanka girls specifically for exporting them for prostitution work to overseas Chinese communities such as in Australia or America, or to serve as a Chinese or foreigner's concubine.[25]

Tanka women were ostracized from the Cantonese community, and were nicknamed "salt water girls " (ham shui mui in Cantonese) for their services as prostitutes to foreigners in Hong Kong.[23][24]

The stereotype among most Chinese in Canton that all Tanka women were prostitutes was common, leading the government during the Republican era to accidentally inflate the number of prostitutes when counting, due to all Tanka women being included.[18][19] The Tanka women were viewed as such that their prostitution activities were considered part of the normal bustle of a commercial trading city.[20] Sometimes the lowly regarded Tanka prostitutes managed to elevate themselves into higher forms of prostitution.[21][22]

The Tanka prostitutes were considered to be "low class", greedy for money, arrogant, and treating clients with a bad attitude, they were known for punching their clients or mocking them by calling them names.[15] Though the Tanka prostitutes were considered low class, their brothels were still remarkably well kept and tidy.[16] A famous fictional story which was written in the 1800s depicted western items decorating the rooms of Tanka prostitutes.[17]

Ordinary Chinese prostitutes were afraid of serving Westerners since they looked strange to them, while the Tanka prostitutes freely mingled with western men.[10] The Tanka assisted the Europeans with supplies and providing them with prostitutes.[11][12] Low class European men in Hong Kong easily formed relations with the Tanka prostitutes.[13] The profession of prostitution among the Tanka women led to them being hated by the Chinese both because they had sex with westerners and them being racially Tanka.[14]

Elizabeth Wheeler Andrew (1845–1917) and Katharine Caroline Bushnell (5 February 1856 January 26, 1946), who wrote extensively on the position of women in the British Empire, wrote about the Tanka inhabitants of Hong Kong and their position in the prostitution industry, catering towards foreign sailors. The Tanka did not marry with the Chinese, being descendants of the natives, they were restricted to the waterways. They supplied their women as prostitutes to British sailors and assisted the British in their military actions around Hong Kong[8] The Tanka in Hong Kong were considered "outcasts" categorized low class.[9]

Tanka Prostitution

In 1900 after Russians patronized Turki Muslim (Uyghur) women prostitutes in Kashgar during a party, the inflamed Turki populace set off a riot and had to be dispersed by guards to stop them from attacking the Russians.[7]

Different ethnic groups had different attitudes toward prostitution. The Europeans noted that Turki Muslims (Uyghurs) would prostitute their daughters, while such a thing would never happen among Tungan Muslims (Chinese Muslims), which was why Turkic prostitutes were common around the country.[6]


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