International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers1

This year 17th Dec is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Every year, sex worker concern groups from all over the world will hold event on this day to commemorate those sex workers who are being violently treated and being murdered. This is to raise the social concern for the safety of sex workers to remind people to respect and protect the human rights of sex workers.

Violence Tolerated by the Departments
Attribute to discrimination from the society and bias in the law, sex workers have to face physical or psychological violence of various kinds. Besides facing violence from an individual, they also face structural violence, i.e., violence from the system itself and also collaboration among officials. Stubborn system and bureaucracy not only make sex workers suffered from offence of their personal right by the law executing departments but also make them lose a way to appeal and fight for an fair treatment. CAPO (Complaints Against Police Office) and IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Council) are particularly bad in this aspect.

From past year, Zi Teng has received complains from many sex workers saying that they were battered and verbally assaulted by the police with no reason; some even did not receive payment due to police officers abusing their authority. They are filled with grievance and want to fight for their own rights. They took up courage and complained to the CAPO. The next day after she filed a complaint, an officer claimed himself to be from the CAPO called her if she really wanted to complain and the officer will imply again and again that if the complaint is not true, she will be charged “Wrongly Accuse a Police Officer”. After multiple warm warnings, sex workers finally gave up the complaint and proclaimed that “This is life” and they did not have trust in the complaint system anymore. The situation is even more unfair to those Mainland Chinese sex workers who do not hold valid document to come to Hong Kong to work as they will either be locked in jail or sent back to China, making them difficult to file any complaints.

Null in Investigation
The police’s response in the LEGCO (Legislative Council) meeting to those local NGOs that monitor authority abuse of the police is that the person concern should complain to the CAPO. However, when the person concern or a sex worker shows up and complains, police officer will obstruct him/her to do so. It is ridiculous that the police verbally encourage people to make complaint but obstruct them to do so in reality. This system of police investigating police is just a system to protect the benefits of the police officer being complained and successfully eliminate lots of complaints and turn them into stardust. This system has actually allowed the police to violently treat the sex workers as it does not serve its purpose at all. To improve the situation, an independent complaint section should be set up to solve the basic problem of CAPO.

IPCC Work More As an Image than a Function
The new chairman of IPCC has promised several times in the newspaper that he will take action to investigate the complaints of the police and also he will strengthen the contact with complainers, human rights groups and sex worker concern groups. In response to this invitation, we have coordinated with other sex worker concern groups and send a letter to the chairman to try to fix a time and date for the first meeting. IPCC representative has changed a number of times about the time and the number of people in the meeting. They have excuses that the chairman is busy or that the amount of people is more than 10 and they need to reschedule another meeting room that can accommodate more than 10 people, etc. We are surprised that IPCC is in serious lack of resources and that their representatives discriminate sex workers and try their best to delay the meeting with sex worker concern groups and forget about their chairman’s open promise.

Police Offend Human Rights, Take the Lead to Discriminate Migrant Sex Workers The police coordinated with district council and the media to organize a fancy trip of sex worker raid and allow the media to film the faces of the migrant sex workers, the same method that is applied by the mainland police. Police officers allow the media to offend the privacy of others and using the camera to insult sex workers. It is a shame that they use this kind of “legal violence” to them. The police and district council have their responsibility off their shoulders and do not declare the reason behind this act and do not apologize to the victims and hurt them deeper. This act is similar to those in the mainland, showing that the Hong Kong police is trying to match with the mainland’s way in executing the law and set their style to that of the mainland police.

In reality, there is a long history of the police offending the human rights of sex workers. The “iron cage” issue several years ago and now the “raid tour” this time plus countless cases of violation of rights in the previous decade, including arbitrary arrest, frame people up, batter, force somebody to admit an offence, assault by foul languages, etc. In the view of the police, those who come from Mainland China can be treated with whatever ways they like. It is because the girls do sex work, so they deserve to be insulted and their human rights can be disregarded.

We hope that the police do not insult the society of Hong Kong and do not challenge Hong Kong citizens’ demand in having basic human rights and privacy!

We demand the followings from the police and other related departments:

  1. Eliminate the system of police investigating the police but set up an independent monitoring section that are comprised of people from different walks of life with firm investigating power.
  2. Provide training to front line police officers to raise the awareness of opposite sex and human rights and be fair in treating sex workers and normal citizens
  3. Investigate fairly about cases of violation of privacy and discipline severely those who have offended the regulation.

Zi Teng, Midnight Blue
Dec 17, 2009

1International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers is originated in the U.S. when Green River Killer Gary Ridgway, who had killed more than 48 sex workers, was convicted on that day. In order to end violence against sex workers, sex worker concern group of the states named SWOP had called upon sex workers to organize a memorial activity to commemorate those sex workers who were murdered and fight against violence towards sex workers such that they are protected under the law.