To The UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination:

Position paper on the “International Convention on

The Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination”

Submitted by Zi Teng and Migrant Support Network

(Sex workers concern organizations in HK)

Hong Kong government has international obligation to eliminate the racial discrimination. Although the government had passed the Race Discrimination Ordinance in 2008, it has failed to protect the rights of minorities in education, housing, medical and employment etc. The ordinance has excluded the mainland Chinese from the protection as the government defines ethnic minorities as "persons who are non-Chinese". However, the Mainland Chinese are considered under the CERD as an identifiable minority based on place of origin, an interpretation endorsed by the Hong Kong Government and NGOs.

It is estimated that there are more than 50000 migrant sex workers in Hong Kong. They come from different countries, such as South America, Thailand, Philippines, Mongolia and most of them are from Mainland China. Their rights should be protected under the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

The deepest problem faced by the migrant sex workers is that, most of the police officers discriminate against non-HK people, especially those who come from Mainland China. For example, female tourists holding mainland visa are always being suspected of engaging in sex work, they are frequently stopped on street for inspection. Detained Mainland migrant sex workers are beaten up, undergo strip search and being forced to admit an offence in the police station.

The HKSARS Government not only fails to eliminate discrimination confronted by the migrant sex workers from Mainland China but even turns a blind eye to it and allows public officials to abuse their power continuously.

We urge the Committee to concern the following issues:

Article 4 & 5

(1) Arbitrary arrest and detention of migrant sex workers from Mainland China
Women holding mainland visa are frequently stopped on street for inspection, many of them are immediately arrested WITHOUT any proven criminal evidence. Near 50% of the arrested migrant sex workers that we have contacted have not committed any crime at the time of the arrest, they were just having a meal in a restaurant, shopping, buying phone card or transferring money.

Once, two ladies were being suspected of selling sex and were arrested by the police when they were worshiping in a temple, but these two ladies were actually the wives of the officials of Hunan province from Mainland China.

Besides, undercover police officers always use “soliciting for an immoral purpose” as the charge to arrest migrant sex-workers. However, 80% of the girls arrested with the above charge during undercover operations said that it was the police who initiated and asked for sex service.

Over 90% of the girls arrested have told us that the police did not give any explanation or reason why they were being arrested. All of them can not be put on bail and were forced to sign voluntary return paper or letter of plea guilty. Those who have signed the voluntary return paper were sent back to Mainland China immediately without trial.

(2) Violence and inhuman treatment against migrant sex workers
In order to make the migrant sex workers submit quickly, the police use violence during the process of arrest and detainment:

(I) A cuffed girl was held down in front of a convenient shop and had her hands bleed.
(II) A girl had her both hands back cuffed and the police tore apart her clothes and sealed her mouth by tape.
(III) A girl who was so painful in her stomach, she crawled on the floor and asked for help but a woman police officer stepped on the little finger of the girl until it bleed and said to her, “Do not make a show here.”
(IV) 5 migrant sex workers have continuously refused to make a statement and were locked up in a dark room and beaten up by the police (Their hair and stomach was pulled, shook and punched repeatedly.)

Other violent treatments towards migrant sex-workers included verbal threatening, strong impact on their bodies and slapping on the faces.

(3) Police draft statement form and frame up migrant sex-workers
Over 50% of the arrested migrant sex workers revealed that the statement form was already filled out by the police when they were forced to sign it. Police officers always make use of their ignorance and cheat the girls by telling them, “No worry, after you sign it, you can go tomorrow.” A migrant sex worker was even threatened by a police officer that her boyfriend in HK would be beaten up if she refused to sign the statement.

At least 6 girls were rejected several times when they requested to read the content of the statement, and the police never explain the purpose and the consequence of signing a statement form to them. Most of the arrested girls realized that the statement form was an admission of crime ONLY after the moment they have signed it.

(4) Strip Search
According to the new guideline of body search in July 2008, every detainee should have the right to know the scope and reason of the search and to receive a copy of Custody Search Form.

But in reality (in 2009), 90% of the arrested migrant sex workers that we have contacted were not told the reason and level of the search. Most of them were arrested because of breach of conditions of stay, but they still had to remove their underwear for search (two of them over 8 times within 24 hours). Some of the girls demanded a clear explanation from the police officers, but the police just say,” Everyone should be searched.” And no one has ever received a copy of the Custody Search Form (Pol 1123).

(5) Rights of the Detainee Denied
Over 90% of the detained migrant sex workers were rejected to make any phone call or contact a lawyer. These girls were allowed to call a lawyer ONLY when they had signed the statement of guilt and the Notice to Detainee. If the arrested girl continuously refused to make a statement, there will be no food, no water or toilet for her, and she will be verbally assaulted by foul language or even be beaten up.

Many migrant sex workers can not understand Cantonese and read traditional Chinese characters but the police did not arrange any interpreter. The arrested girls had no way to understand the content of the statement form and did not realize what she sign is an admission of an offence.

On 14 June 2005, over 80 women are detained in a tiny iron cage of 200 square meters in the car park of a police station. All of the arrested girls were Mainland Chinese, they are suspected of selling sex illegally in HK. (See attachment 1)

The cage is actually an open area which did not have any basic facilities like toilet or rest area, the detainees need to stand or sit on the floor and endure the heat emitted by the air-conditioners nearby and the fierce sunshine for over 12 hours. It is also a serious violation of the detainees’ privacy, as anyone can easily stare and photograph them.

(6) Failure to protect the safety of migrant sex workers
Migrant sex workers from Mainland China are consistently being the biggest victim of crime and violence due to their illegal status. Many of them are afraid of being deported and choose to bear with the violence and not seeking any assistance from the police. Customers and criminals know about their vulnerability and they will assert various violent acts like refusing to pay or use condoms, rape, rob pretend to be police officers or even murder the sex worker.

Even the migrant sex-workers ask for police’s assistance, the police prefer to target on the illegal aspect of their service but not giving the protection or support for them as a victim of crime. This resulted in migrant sex-workers do not dare to ask for police’s assistance and bear with the crimes they face in silence. It in turn encourages criminals to offend more to the extent that even an 80 years old man dare to imprison and rob migrant sex-worker.

We strongly demand the followings:

(1) Stop all arbitrary arrests, creating false statement and frame-ups in all police operations.
(2)  Respect human rights and stop all abuse of police power and violence towards migrant sex-workers and mainland Chinese.
(3) Reform the guidelines for body search.
(4) Respect the rights of the detainee.
(5) Stop all deprivation of the rights of migrant sex-workers as a victim of crime. Give the victim the greatest support and protection, and to arrest the criminal at large as soon as possible.
(6) Hong Kong government should establish the independent body to investigate the complaints against police.
(7) The government should establish effective measure to eliminate all kinds of racial discrimination to protect the rights of minorities.

Introduction of Zi Teng
Zi Teng, formed in 1996, is a sex workers concern organization in Hong Kong. We have been providing supports and services to local and migrant sex workers for more than 10 years. We believe all people, regardless of their professions, social classes, religions, sex and sexual orientation, should have basic human rights to be treated fairly and not to be oppressed or offended by violence.

Introduction of Migrant Support Network
We are a migrant concern group formed in 2008 under the support of Zi Teng. We aim to provide support for migrant workers, especially migrant sex workers. We believe that migrant workers are entitled to respect and basic human rights, regardless of their job nature and legal status.

Address: Hong Kong Post Office Headquarters PO Box 7450
Tel: 852-23327182

Date of Submission: 18 May 2009

Attachment 1
Newspaper Cutting about the “Iron Cage Incident” on 15 June 2005