Saturday, August 09, 2008

Stamping Out Prostitution with an Olympic Baton

From the Asia Times:

By William Sparrow

June 15, 2008

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.

"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 profession."

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.

Read the full article

No comments:

Post a Comment