Hong Kong police on alert after China sex industry crackdown

An alleged sex worker covers her face after being detained in Dongguan, China, on February 9, 2014

Story highlights

  • Hong Kong police plan to step up operations against vice operations
  • The move follows a crackdown on prostitution across border in Dongguan
  • Senior police fear vice may shift to Hong Kong in the wake of police raids
  • The Chinese government has indicated that a vice crackdown has gone nationwide

Hong Kong police plan to step up efforts against vice operations in the city following a massive crackdown on prostitution last week across the Chinese border, where police in Dongguan raided 2000 establishments and detained more than 900 people.

Senior Hong Kong police expressed fears that the Special Administrative Zone could fill the vice vacuum left after the raids by more than 6000 police on the Chinese industrial city just 60 miles (100km) to the north.

Commissioner of Police Andy Tsang Wai-hung told local media that police would be stepping up operations against the sex trade, adding that proliferation of vice in the territory was a concern following the crackdown.

"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," a senior Hong Kong police office told the South China Morning Post. "It will bring with it all the usual vice that goes with it: narcotics, money laundering, triad protection."

The Chinese Ministry of Public Security on Sunday ordered police across China to step up efforts to tackle the "three vices" -- prostitution, gambling and drug trafficking -- warning officials they would be held accountable for illegal activities.

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While Dongguan, situated between the large population zones of Shenzhen and Guangzhou, has long been associated with prostitution -- it is known as China's "sin city" -- China's Ministry of Public Security has indicated it will not limit the crackdown to the city, and that the operations will also target officials benefiting from the trade.

"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," the ministry said in a post on its website over the weekend.

Dongguan deputy mayor and police chief Yan Xiaokang was fired from his post last week and ten other senior police officers have been subject to a range punishments in the wake of the raids, state media reported.

Other provinces including Zhejiang, Gansu, Shandong, Guangxi and Heilongjiang have conducted their own vice raids in recent days, indicating that the campaign has been directed from the central government.

Dubbed the "exterminate yellow" campaign -- the color in China associated with prostitution -- the crackdown comes after a report by the national broadcaster CCTV on the sex industry in Dongguan.

According to media reports cited by the English-language China Daily, Dongguan -- with a large and shifting migrant population from across China -- could have as many as 300,000 working in the illegal industry, despite harsh penalties for involvement.

The nationwide clampdown on the three vices is the latest target for the government of President Xi Jinping, which promised a widescale crackdown on rampant graft when it came to power in 2012.

Xi has also been behind an austerity drive to rein in extravagant spending, banning officials from serving exotic dishes such as shark fin soup at banquets.

Anger over corruption has prompted a raft of "mass incidents," an official euphemism for protests, worrying officials defending one-party rule.

Last year, Xi vowed to crack down on both "tigers" and "flies" -- powerful leaders and lowly bureaucrats -- in his campaign against corruption and petty officialdom.