China has launched a crackdown on prostitution, gambling and drug trafficking, one week after police in Guangdong province raided thousands of entertainment venues suspected of selling sex services.
The Chinese Ministry of Public Security on Sunday ordered police to step up efforts to tackle the three vices, warning officials that they would be held accountable for illegal activities that occurred under their watch.
Signalling that the southern-grown campaign was being introduced across China, the People’s Daily, the Communist party’s flagship newspaper, quoted a public security official as saying that the ministry “attaches great importance to the issue and will resolutely investigate, severely punish and firmly attack the organisers, operators and ‘protective umbrellas’ behind prostitution crimes”.
The central government campaign follows in the footsteps of Guangdong, which last week began a push to “exterminate yellow”, the colour associated with pornography in China, in the southern manufacturing metropolis of Dongguan, which is commonly known as the sex capital of China.
While the sex trade is rampant in China, Dongguan has been branded as “sin city” because of the large numbers of massage parlours and bath houses that provide sex services in the city of 10m. Prostitution has spread in the metropolis partly because of the millions of migrant workers who come to work in its factories, which make every-thing from iPads to teapots.
Immediately after CCTV, the state broadcaster, ran a report on the sex trade in Dongguan nine days ago, thousands of police raided close to 2,000 entertainment venues, including karaoke bars, sauna houses and massage parlours, and detained 100 prostitutes. Police in other parts of the province, including the capital of Guangzhou, followed suit with even bigger campaigns.
The clampdown on prostitution, gambling and drug trafficking is the latest initiative of the government of Xi Jinping. Since coming to power in late 2012, the president has cracked down on corruption by punishing “tigers and flies” – officials at all levels of the party – suspected of corruption.
Mr Xi has also promoted an austerity drive to reduce extravagant spending. As well as banning officials from serving exotic dishes such as shark’s fin soup at banquets, he has told cadres to cut back on opulence in a campaign that has been dubbed “four dishes and one soup” by state media.
As part of the push to tackle the three issues, the public security ministry has sent a team to Guangdong to oversee the investigations, which have resulted in the dismissal of a number of police officials who oversaw districts where the raids were conducted.
Yan Xiaokang, the police chief and deputy mayor of Dongguan, was fired on Friday for “dereliction of duty”. The party secretaries – the top officials – of four townships in Dongguan all issued apologies over the weekend following his sacking.
“I have received a profound lesson and heavy warning from this situation,” said Ye Kongxin, the party chief of Humen township. “From now on, I will absolutely take this as a lesson and faithfully carry out the orders of the central, provincial and municipal leadership .?.?.? to fight against prostitution.”
The raids on Dongguan unleashed a rare outpouring of online support for the sex workers, as people took to Weibo and other forms of social media to criticise the authorities for not focusing on other issues. The People’s Daily on Friday described that support as “blasphemy against civilisation”.
Before the public security ministry published its warning on Sunday, some authorities across China had already taken notice of the campaign in Guangdong and followed suit.
Late last week, police in Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang province in the northeast, investigated 2,700 entertainment venues and detained 27 people.
China Daily yesterday said authorities in Jiangsu, the eastern province that borders Shanghai, and Hunan, the birthplace of Mao Zedong, had also cracked down.
The focus of the campaign has been on the sex trade, but the public security ministry statement suggests that the clampdown will spread to gambling and drugs.
Gambling is illegal in China except in the special administrative region of Macau where mainland Chinese punters flock in the millions to play baccarat and other games.
Additional reporting by Julie Zhu and Zhang Yan
朱莉(Julie Zhu)和张嫣(Zhang Yan)补充报道