Hong Kong police are planning to focus special attention on illegal sex trade operations in response to a wide scale crackdown on prostitution last week in the city of Dongguan along the Chinese border. Police in the border city seized more than 900 people after conducting raids on 2000 establishments, and authorities in Hong Kong are now bracing for an influx of illegal vice activity as a result.
The Chinese Ministry of Public Security was responsible for ordering police to initiate the crackdown in Dongguan, a notorious haven for prostitution, but has also indicated that efforts would not focus exclusively on one city or one vice. Apparently, the objective is to attack the so-called “three vices”, which in addition to prostitution include gambling and drug trafficking. These efforts are expected to be widespread all across China, and the ministry has advised police to operate without impunity, stating on its official website:
“Be resolute with the crackdown no matter who is involved, and regardless of what official ranks they are at, with no leniency or soft-heartedness.”
Commissioner of Police Andy Tsang Wai-hung has expressed concern about a likely increase of prostitution in Hong Kong, but also expects additional criminal activity to accompany this vice. A senior Hong Kong police representative echoed these sentiments to the South China Morning Post:
“There is definitely potential for the sex trade to suddenly grow quickly here but it won’t just be confined to a rise in prostitution. It will bring with it all the usual vice that goes with it: narcotics, money laundering, triad protection.”
This massive police operation was precipitated by a detailed report on China Central Television of the illicit underground sex trade in the “sin city” of Dongguan. The unusually candid nature of the report compelled authorities to crackdown immediately on this thriving industry.
Prostitution was banned in China after the Communist revolution in 1949. However, it reappeared three decades ago due in part to sweeping economic reforms, and the resulting activity is greatly responsible for a significant increase in sexually transmitted diseases, most prominently HIV/AIDS.
The government of President Xi Jinping vowed to make inroads into alleviating crime and corruption in China after seizing power in 2012, and the recent large scale crackdown is but one example of this activity. In addition to the numerous vice arrests, the raids also resulted in the levying of punishments against a number of high ranking government and police officials in Dongguan.
Hong Kong officials are clearly aware of the potential for increased criminal activity, but it remains to be seen if their preparedness will yield positive results.