Dongguan bids to clean up its act - again

Updated: 2014-02-12 09:46

By Qiu Quanlin in Dongguan, Cui Jia, Tang Yue and Yang Wanli in Beijing (China Daily)

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Growing trade

The number of prostitutes in China has increased to about 20 million in recent years since the country launched its war on pornography and prostitution in the late 1980s, according to Ma Xiaonian, vice-chair of the China Sexology Association.

"People's sex need beyond marriage is always there," Ma said, adding that prostitution boomed in past decades in parallel with rapid economic development.

Dongguan bids to clean up its act - again

Dongguan is known as sex capital of China. Fang Guangming / for China Daily

He believes that the growing demand for sex in China has its roots in poor sex education. "Chinese people are taught to be ashamed about sex from childhood, and that sense of shame has stopped them from learning more about sex," Ma said.

According to Ma, seeking prostitutes is inevitable given social attitudes that require strict monogamy. He said more people have started to think of the question more analytically, going beyond moralistic criticism of prostitutes in places like Dongguan.

Target sex trade bosses

In many cases where power has been involved with criminal gangs, local officials or police officers have proved to be protectors or bosses in the illegal sex industry.

"It is a good trend. It's an indication of people's strong awareness of human rights, as well as social tolerance," Ma said, adding that rule-makers should adopt policies that apply equally to everyone.

"Many high officials who played important roles in rule-making were found to have mistresses in recent years," he said. "Such relations are no different from whoring. How can they despise prostitution while seeking mistresses secretly?"

Ma said the contradiction between the need for sex and the country's prohibition on prostitution would be solved through legalization.

"It will not result in social instability," he said, pointing to the US as an example. "If society is tolerant toward sex, people will turn to seek a better sex life within the family."

In one US state - Nevada - prostitution is legal, but sex workers are strictly regulated. Safe-sex practices are required, along with weekly medical examinations that are made available to clients. The chances of contracting a sexually transmitted disease are statistically negligible, according to official health data.

On the other side of the question, Yuan Baocheng, mayor of Dongguan, said during last year's NPC session in Beijing that the city will not rely on the sex trade and other ills often linked to it - gambling and drugs, for example - for economic development.

"I have to say that social problems, such as underground prostitution, the drug trade and gambling, have emerged in Dongguan along with other cities in the Pearl River Delta region, following decades of rapid economic development," he said.

"But we will never rely on such negative factors to drive the city's economic development."

Feng Shengping, chief researcher of the Guangdong Provincial Situation Research Center, said the crackdown on prostitution in Dongguan will help create a healthy environment for businesses and residents in the city.

"For years, Dongguan has been labeled a sin city for its rampant sex trade. The city's economic growth should depend on a healthy service industry, rather than a rampant illegal entertainment industry," Feng said.

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