interesting to notice that the following article completely fails to mention
the "Gentlemen of the Night", and male/female Transgender exotic workers ?
SEX IN DEPTH
Stamp out sex with an Olympic baton
By William Sparrow
BANGKOK - China, as the host of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in August, is
beset with Olympic-size challenges as the government tries to assure that the
"action" occurs in Beijing's stadiums and not its red-light districts and bars.
Last week, the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games released a
legal guide that itemized the preferred parameters for foreign visits, and
expressly denied entry to certain types of undesirable visitors.
The "Legal Guidelines for Foreigners Entering, Exiting and
Staying in China during the Olympics", released June 2, was a question and
answer warning to foreigners about prohibited behavior, including sleeping in
parks, carrying weapons and engaging in "illegal gatherings and parades",
according to an English translation made public by the non-governmental organization
Human Rights in China (HRC).
Under the rubric "Which categories of foreigners are not permitted to enter
China?", the HRC-translated guide included, "Those who are believed to
potentially engage in smuggling, narcotic trafficking or prostitution after entering
China", and "Those who are suffering from a mental disorder or insanity,
sexually-transmitted disease, or an infectious disease such as active tuberculosis."
How the Beijing government plans to enforce these policies, namely
prostitution-seekers and those with sexually-transmitted disease, is impossibly unclear.
Even for an authoritarian government as strict as Beijing, it seems an
immense undertaking to pre-determine the health and intent of millions of expected
It is obvious, however, that the government has thrown down the gauntlet and
will do whatever it must to crack down on vice in an effort to present China's
best face for the Games. In terms of stopping prostitution, and its alleged
negative effects on society, this may be a laudable endeavor. But on the
ground, let's be honest, it's laughable.
It would have been much easier in the bygone era of Mao Zedong. In fact, if
the official Communist Party line on China's history is to be believed, after
the communists' rise to power in 1949 they completely eradicated prostitution.
But Chinese scholars say the regime simply pushed the sex industry underground
and out of public view.
"There was no open prostitution 25 years ago," Jing Jun, a sociology and AIDS
policy professor at Tsinghua University told the Washington Post in a 2007
article by Maureen Fan titled "Oldest Profession Flourishes in China". "Fifteen
years ago, you didn't find sex workers in remote areas and cities. But now
it's prevalent in every city, every county."
According to the same Washington Post article, "Estimates of the number of
prostitutes in China vary widely, from 1 million who earn their primary income
from sex, to eight or 10 times that, including people who sometimes accept
money, gifts or rent in exchange for sex. That the numbers have been allowed to
increase illustrates the tricky relationship officials have with the ancient
Today, reports from colleagues in mainland China suggest prostitutes are
everywhere, and not just of the Chinese variety. Contacts say that of the
non-nationals practicing the sex trade, the most prevalent are Russian and Eastern
European - and they command higher prices.
An expatriate journalist in Beijing, who wished to remain unnamed, said, "But
as far as foreigners go [the sex industry] is largely confined to three
[red-light] bar areas: Sanlitun, Hohai and Lidu [in Beijing] staffed almost wholly
by Chinese women."
There is no "go-go" action - the kind otherwise infamous in Southeast Asia -
as China is more of a freelance operation. As the journalist puts it, "There
are 'lady bars' [in the districts mentioned above]. But the bars are rip-off
joints, aimed at tourists. It is a quasi-Japanese hostess-style affair where the
man picks a girl, buys her drinks [she earns commission on these], and pays
for her time, then pays a lot more if they want sex."
Prostitution occurs in karaoke bars, "beauty salons", massage parlors and by
street walkers. According to reports, all that is needed is a decent command
of Mandarin to engage with these women. A foreigner stumbling into these venues
uninitiated, or without local language skills, would at best find himself
lost, at worst unwelcome.
These sex trades will surely be in full operation during the Games, no matter
what measures the authorities enact. There is also no doubt that local venues
will try to adapt to capitalize on the lucrative opportunity the Games will
present. The massive influx of potential customers could easily mean a year's
worth of work for some prostitutes - many of whom reportedly come from
impoverished, rural backgrounds.
As has been the case at other international sporting events, local
professionals will be augmented by enterprising foreign women. The 2006 football World
Cup in Germany - where prostitution is technically legal - saw the number of
sex workers rise from an estimated 400,000 to more than 700,000 - some estimated
as many as 1.2 million. The "legal guidelines" mandate appears to be
Beijing's first salvo in an upcoming battle against such an anticipated influx.
Digital information - specifically mobile phones and the Internet - will also
cloud matters for the government. Even the so-called "Great Firewall of
China" won't be able to stop working girls from making connections. In fact, recent
reports have shown that Chinese authorities have struggled to adapt their
enforcement to deal with even the local sex industry as "in-call/out-call" ladies
have turned to technology to cover their tracks.
China has dodgy laws regarding prostitution. Although technically illegal, it
is tolerated, and in many cases with the unofficial patronage of police and
officials. Authorities generally target only pimps and other purveyors, with
clients and prostitutes immune from harsh punishment as long as there is no
element of exploitation, forced prostitution or underage sexual interaction. It
remains to be seen if such longstanding tactics are "modified" during the Games.
Another challenging dimension is the formidable presence of Chinese organized
crime. The infamous Triads, deeply involved in the sex trade, routinely
undermine, flout and circumvent all efforts to quell immigration, human trafficking
In the main cities where the Games will be held - Beijing, Hong Kong and
Shanghai - any efforts to prevent or even tame prostitution will prove
unmanageable. The confluence of history, economics and human nature - all in a
carnivalesque environment - will simply be too much to overcome.
And, in the end, who's to say this is such a bad thing? China has the Games,
doesn't it expect the players to show up, too?
William Sparrow has been an occasional contributor to Asia Times Online and
now joins Asia Times Online with a weekly column. Sparrow is editor in chief of
Asian Sex Gazette and has reported on sex in Asia for over five years.
(Copyright 2008 Asia Times Online (Holdings)