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Hong Kong’s Human Trafficking Trade

Hong Kong's prostitution and trafficking trade

04·17·2014

Hong Kong’s Human Trafficking Trade

Hong Kong's prostitution and trafficking trade

04·17·2014

Chinese women are being lured into Sydney’s underground sex trade, using the pretence of getting student visas. Hong Kong is a city that has long relied on migrant workers and often been criticized for its poor labor laws protecting them. Australian newspaper the Sydney Morning Herald  exposed the increasing trade of Hong Kong women being used as  prostitutes in Sydney.

After arriving in Australia on travel visas, they are often controlled and  forced to have sex and take drugs with clients for up to 20 hours a day. The women are kept in slave-like conditions. where they eat, work, and sleep on mattresses on the floor.

They often enter on tourist visas and although some know they will be entering the sex trade (many do not), it is far less glamorous than what was originally sold to them. They are promised they will be giving rich men massages for lots of money, and left with plenty of spare time to enjoy Sydney’s sandy beaches, cafes and shops–all a far cry from the sickening sexual pseudo-slavery they end up in.

They often have to perform unprotected oral, anal, and vaginal sex, not to mention take ecstasy and crystal meth (ice) with customers to make them stay at the premises longer, often leaving the girls in a vicious cycle of drug addiction and dependency. The brothel managers lodge requests for student visas on their behalf knowing that many will be rejected and that the process with appeals will take around 2 years.

Hong Kong’s own sex trade thrives off women from places such as the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, and, Mongolia. The conditions for unregistered sex workers working in Hong Kong’s red light district Wan Chai aren’t much better than those in Sydney, with up to eight women living in one flat cooking off a hot plate and paying around HK$80 to HK$100 per night for the privilege. They think they will make lots of money but, of course, the reality is different. Charged around 1,000 USD for a recruitment, the money will pay for their flight and is given up front, but then they are forced to pay off the debt, with representatives often keeping the women’s passport until they leave.

Even though these women are victims of human trafficking, it’s hard for the police to prove it as they come of their own free will. When their 14 day tourist visas are up, the girls often travel to Macau or Shenzhen and hope that they can gather enough money to show that they are tourists, and it’s only after a few entries into the country that officials become suspicious.

prostitute-prices

Prostitute prices for different nationalities (Russian girls “devil sisters” top the list but no price is given)
Image courtesy of Flickr user istolethetv

Often domestic workers in Hong Kong have such a low wage that they are tempted to supplement their earnings by working in the sex trade, alternatively some women use fake domestic work contracts to enter the prostitution trade. Hong Kong is a perfect place for such trafficking to take place. There is a constant influx of migrant workers and current laws are more likely to put the girls in prison than the traffickers themselves. Even though they are being exploited, the women often remain because they live in fear, and in in the current system, police have no obligation to even identify the trafficked person in a trafficking operation.

Although prostitution is legal in Hong Kong, there are laws against organised prostitution, living off the prostitution of others, public solicitation and, furthermore, it’s illegal for two or more prostitutes to work in the same place, which has led to the most common form of legal prostitution in Hong Kong: the “one-woman brothel”,  where a woman receives customers in her own apartment. This leads to whole apartment blocks filled with one woman brothels, all keeping within the law because of their subdivided flats.

One of the most famous online websites for prostitution is Sex141.com created in Hong Kong in 2003. The site holds detailed ads for thousands of prostitutes, and has been colorfully dubbed the “Wikipedia for whoremongers“.  Altogether, there are 26 districts of Hong Kong that are covered on the site, with the whereabouts and particular skill set of anywhere between 1,000 and 2,000 prostitutes advertised at any given time. The page receives around  100,000 page views per day. However the site has had its fair share of legal problems as Hong Kong prostitution laws are designed to keep the trade out of the public eye. Accordingly, the site is in a legal grey zone with the site managers technically living off of the earnings of prostitution.