Two-way secrets: Press Conference on Mainland sex workers’ current situation

In the past two years, Zi Teng Clinic for Women has been providing free women body check-ups include Cervical Cancer, HIV and gonorrhea, for local and Mainland China sex workers. Since the Social Hygiene Clinics of HKSAR Government cut the free tests of sexually transmitted disease for transit travelers in 2003, our clinic became the major place serving sex workers from Mainland China. We found that this years number of Mainland China sex workers using our clinic dropped 40 percents compare with the number of 2004 (2004: 51 people; 2006 29 people). Also, among the 80 sex workers we reached at our clinic and during our outreach service, we found that the number of women who insist using condom dropped 20 per cents compare with the number of 2005.

As stated in the UNAIDS report, mobile population are morel likely to be infected by HIV/AIDS than fixed population. It will bring far-reaching and tragic effect to the society if the government does not deal with it properly. The Hong Kong Advisory Council on AIDS also pointed out that Mainland sex workers do not have the same access to prevention services and HIV information as local sex workers in Hong Kong., that they are more vulnerable to HIV infection and transmission. According to the figures from the Department of Health, the number of people being infected by HIV increased by 1.2 times in the second quarter of 2006, compared with the number in the second quarter of 2005. As long as Mainland China opens its market, there will be more bilateral movement. The fact that there is an increase in the number of HIV-infected brings some risks to Hong Kong society. During the XVI International AIDS Conference, international delegates raised that groups should positively support sex workers to prevent AIDS rather than suppressing them. For instance, Bill Gates the tycoon, stated that it was necessary to provide adequate support for sex workers to prevent HIV and disease transmission.

For the drop in the rate of sex workers who insist in using condom, we are very concerned and want to find out the reason behind. We found that the main reason leading to the drops in clinic and condom use is due to the government's harsh policy and police officers' abuse of power.

Hong Kong government is indeed diverging from the international society. Not only the government cancelled the free tests of sexually transmitted disease for transit travelers provided by the Social Hygiene Clinics in 2003, also adopted a harsh “not freeing even the innocent ones” policy on Mainland sex workers. This drives the frontline law enforcers to abuse their power in order to implement the said policy: they will use violence on women whom they believe to be sex workers, force the women to sign on false statement. They will not consider if there is any evidence, or the suspect is innocent, but bearing in mind “not freeing even the innocent ones”. Neither do ex workers receive fair judgment in trials, that many are wronged. There are different ways of police to abuse their power. In the past 2 months, Zi Teng received more than 60 complaints from Mainlanders, saying that police officers take their pictures with mobile phones, recording their passport numbers without any evidence. They also demanded the women to leave Hong Kong immediately, threatening them not to come to Hong Kong again.

Apart from taking pictures with mobile phones, police also make use of the followings:

  1. arbitrary arrest

  2. not allowing phone calls

  3. coercive signing on false statement

  4. physical assault

  5. strip search

While the above seriously violates human rights, arbitrary arrests wrong thousands of innocence, the rule of law is completely destroyed as a consequence.

In fact, sex workers are very concerned their occupational health. Nonetheless, due to the police abuse of power and arbitrary arrests, their bargaining power are further weakened that they have to accept sex without condom. Besides, the arbitrary arrests by police scare sex workers, who fear of being arrested, that the latter dare not to visit the clinic. This directly brings obstacles to sex workers to obtain AIDS prevention and treatment. Moreover, it creates obstacles to the effective prevention of AIDS transmission in the community, risking the society health.

We believe that the government should formulate its policy on the basis of society’s interests. The government ironically increases the risk of STD/AIDS transmission in the community for its harsh policy on Mainland sex workers, adversely affecting the society health. It is high time for government to reformulate its current policy. In addition, the abuse of police power and arbitrary arrests will cause the following problems:

1, increase the risk of STD/AIDS transmission in the community, adversely affecting the society health

2, encourage police abusing their power, destroying the rule of law in Hong Kong

3, arbitrary arrests wrong thousands of people, seriously destroying the judiciary image of Hong Kong

4, trial proceedings are operated like an assembly line, shaking public confidence in the judiciary system

5, increase the government expenses, wasting taxpayers’ money

Here are our demands:

1, The government and police reformulate their policy on the basis of the interests of the society, and stop their discrimination and harsh policy on Mainland sex workers

2, The police strictly respect the spirit of the rule of law, and stop violating sex workers’ human rights.

Hong Kong society has long been rejecting Mainland sex workers. There is hardly anyone trying to understand this poor, uneducated, unskilled group of women, who bear the family burden to work in the Hong Kong sex industry. Neither is there a person trying to understand their social function in the society. The people whom they serve are often the most neglected ones in the society, such as the poor and the elder. Due to the status of sex worker, despite maltreatment, no one is willing to care what these women experience in Hong Kong.

“Two Way Secrets” provides twelve stories of Mainland sex workers. Apart from telling why they come to Hong Kong, they also describe what they experience in Hong Kong and how they overcome the problems. Through this book, we hope that the public understands more the unknown side of the Mainland sex workers, changing their discriminative attitudes towards these women. The press conference on the release of this book was also held at the Zi Teng activity center on 3 September 2006.

Contact person: Chung Sze Wan 2332-7182 (Zi Teng staff)

Bulletin board at 3rd floor of Cheung Sha Wan Police Station

唔理 “堅”定 “流”, “好”或 “醜”,總之殺到一個都不留