Is Dongguan “sweeping the yellow” or just blowing smokes?
黄: (huang2) yellow: pornography and prostitution
扫黄: (sao3huang2) sweeping the yellow: cracking down on pornography and prostitution industry
东莞: (dong1guan1) Dongguan: a prosperous city in Guangdong province of China that is full of factories and businesses.
Mommy: (usually) a middle-aged lady who is in charge of a group of young girls sexual services.
Dongugan’s sweeping the yellow part 1
From Southern Metropolis Weekly
“Ten thousand girls go to Lingnan (South of the Five Ridges – the area covering Guangdong and Guangxi), millions of whoremasters go down to Dongguan”, this is an up and coming popular phrase and also depicts an image of how prosperous Dongguan is. In order to take off this “yellow hat”, since the beginning of November this year, a vigorous storm of sweeping the yellow (扫黄) (cracking down on pornography and prostitution industry) hit the city of Dongguan.
Ah Ping had not lived in this upside down life for almost a month. “I am on vacation right now.” She uses “vacation” to describe her current situation after her work was suddenly interrupted.
The reason she was willing to go out to see clients this evening was because her manager – a security guard at a hotel said he had found an “absolute secure” place for her to offer her services.
Because of the fear of this unprecedented intense sweeping the yellow operation, the “mommy” at Ah Ping’s hotel had told the girls to stop working all together. Media had earlier reported that many places providing sexual services all announced that they are “temporarily closed”. A manager of a sauna in Chang An, Dongguan city said frankly, due to the storm of sweeping the yellow, she advised her clients to wait a while before contacting her again, “We all went back to our hometowns for vacations”.
The storm of sweeping the yellow this time around is much fiercer in comparison to the previous times.
November 2, on the meeting of restoring social orders in Dongguan city, the Party secretary of Dongguan Liu Zhigeng asked public security organizations to “use the hardest measures to implement the most stringent standards,” and to especially focus on kidnapping, pornography & prostitution and gambling. Officials and civil servants who cover up these crimes, or even act as criminals’ connections or protectors, shall be severely punished.
The night of November 9, Dongguan police raided hotels, bars, bathhouses, etc. and cracked down on 425 prostitution and gambling related cases.
In this cold autumn, Dongguan’s sexual service providers became extremely scared and suspended their operations.
“Ten thousand girls go to Lingnan”
Prosperity is people’s first impression of Dongguan – in the past 30 years, Dongguan’s economy was developing at an unbelievably fast pace. Relying on textiles, electronics, furniture, hardware and so on large-scaled industrial bases, Dongguan was rolling in wealth. Last year, local GDP was as high as 371 billion yuan, and ranked 13th among all China’s cities. Dongguan’s households had an average savings amount of 150,000 yuan in the bank.
As famous as its prosperity is the city’s sex industry. Gold rushers coming from mainland China, Hong Kong & Macao districts, Europe, United Sates and Africa opened up factories, started selling products and at the same time they enjoyed the highly developed local entertainment services.
“Ten thousand girls go to Lingnan, millions of whoremasters go down to Dongguan”, this is becoming a widely spreading phrase and also depicts an image of prosperous Dongguan.
Dongguan’s Tourism Bureau released data from the first half of this year showed that the city had a total of 96 hotels of various stars. In the past year, the financial crisis ruined Dongguan’s export-oriented economy. However in Houjie, this famous town in Dongguan, even in the middle of the night, there are young girls who are dressed sexily on the street. They wear short skirts, black stockings, high heels, carry a small handbag and hold a cigarette in their hands. Their faces are covered with heavy make-up, and they do not seem to mind the chilly night.
20-year-old Ah Ping became a sex worker last year.
“In this business for long time, sooner or later you will get caught”, taking a deep drag of her cigarette, she commented on those in the same line of work who were caught by the police not long ago, then she skillfully ashed her cigarette.
A security guard at the local hotel is Ah Ping’s agent. He sneakily handed over the reporter a business card – other than the half naked girl with a sexy pose it said “love and desire are worth thousands, what’s wrong with spending thousands on that person?” – a slogan that kind of makes no sense. The business card was two sided and had his phone number clearly printed.
He knew five or six local girls, and if he brought business to them, he would be commissioned, usually 30 – 50 yuan per person. He said this is “making extra income for himself”.
From her appearance and her dress, you could hardly tell Ah Ping grew up in the rural area of Hunan province. This tall thin girl likes to wear black t-shirts that expose her shoulders and tight jeans, and her face is always covered with heavy make-up and her nails painted with black nail-polish.
Two years ago, Ah Ping was an ordinary assembly woman worker at a small sock factory. She pasted labels on a mountain of socks every day, then packaged them into plastic bags. Just like millions of migrant workers coming from all over the country to Dongguan to ”rush for gold,” Ah Ping worked over 10 hours a day on the assembly line, and in return she got less than 1,300 yuan a month.
Girls like Ah Ping that “work” at the hotel, are only one type of Dongguan’s sex workers. In a city of over 10 million, up from the bosses, corporate executives, down to company employees, even the assembly workers, people can find appropriate sexual services for themselves at every level.
A man claimed to have been working in Dongguan’s hotel business for 8 years said the “girls” are divided into four categories by their working environments, luxury hotels and clubs; leisure facilities (such as bath houses and sauna); hair salons and finally, on the streets, in the alleys. The cost of the sexual services from these places range from thousands of yuan to couple of tens of yuan. “The higher end the place is, more beautiful the girls are, and also they are more secure.” he said.
The most stringent standards
The sudden break-in of the police is the biggest nightmare of all clients. Especially for those people who have high status. A couple of years back, a Hong Kong legislative Council member of the Democratic Party was arrested in Dongguan and his reputation has been ruined ever since.
On the Internet, which are the safest hotels and saunas to visit is one of the frequently asked questions by the clients.
One government official involved in this anti-yellow operation told the reporter privately, during special times every year (such as major holidays, or before an important meeting) Dongguan will Sweep the Yellow (crack down on prostitutions) to clean its street, “it’s always effective, but the more important question is whether we can continue to be effective.” However, he personally does not think that sex industry should be completely shut down. “So many men are doing business and working in Dongguan, they all have their sexual needs!”
It was reported by Guangdong media that this operation was backed by the central government, Department of Public Safety. They have already marked Dongguan to be one of the key areas to be cleaned up. Therefore, the local government is working hard so that Dongguan will not have to wear the yellow hat.
Starting from the night of November 9, Dongguan’s sweeping the yellow operations hit all 32 districts: in Hou Jie town, 500 police raided hair salons, KTV, sauna and massage parlors, and arrested 16 suspects; in Liaobu town, the police cracked 425 cases (26 of them are prostitution related); in Changping town, 41 prostitution criminals and girls were arrested on the street. Swan Lake hotel and Zhonghuan hotel were shut down in Changan town, the “new franchise” which had fifty to sixty stores was shut down, before it was shut down, this place was called the “human flesh market” …
Prior to this, there had been several large-scale sweeping the yellow operations. However, every time after the operations, the tenacious sex industry begins to breed again. But once when it was just about to gain momentum and spread again, the large-scale crackdowns began also once again.
In late November, Dongguan Municipal Party Committee Secretary Liu Zhigeng once again stressed that Sweeping the Yellow must operate at a high level, never let outsiders to have the impression of Dongguan being the “yellow zone”. But he also said “you should not go too far, do not raid every family you go to.”
“I am on vacation”
The sweeping the yellow operation at Dongguan this time made the people in the sex industry start their “hibernation”.
Ah Ping’s “vacation” was actually just doing nothing everyday. Except for sleeping, watching TV, Ah Ping almost did not stay in her apartment of 1,000 yuan monthly rent. Because she likes excitement, she rented an apartment that is ten minutes away from the busiest street of the city, it has one bedroom and one living room with furniture and electrical appliances.
She invited others friends who are also on “vacation” to go shopping, to go to the Internet cafes to chat and play games, to eat at the barbecue vendor for hours at night, these events accounted for most of Ah Ping’s life recently. Her old hometown friends, some of them already left and lost contact with her, the rest would not talk to her because they think A Ping is “dirty”.
Other than strangers she met on the Internet, the few friends she has are girls who have the same job as her in the hotel. “Girls usually do not like to deal with people from the same hometown” she said “everyone thinks the less the people know about this the better” (People from the same hometown are likely to spread the news to her family at home).
In most people’s eyes, the sex industry is a synonym for corruption, crime and disease. But in Ah Ping’s eyes, this is the only way to make money. “I do not want to work in the factory, working in such environment even only for one day will make your eyes hurt” She admits that she is a woman who is afraid of hardship and loves vanity. She would rather be picked like produce by strangers than be a normal factory worker girl because it simply “makes more money.”
Before the crackdown, Ah Ping had a regular everyday life. However her schedule was different from ordinary peoples. She gets up after 12 pm, eats lunch at a roadside restaurant and then before 3 pm she arrives at a hotel in Houjie to “work”. In Dongguan, hotels like this one, not very luxurious but not quite low-end either are everywhere.
“Working” is just waiting for clients in the greenroom. Each room usually has over dozens of girls.
When they recieve a phone call from the “mommy” who is in charge of the girls, 4 to 5 girls will go out of the waiting room to be picked by the customer.
Ah Ping said, after entering the hotel room, all girls will take off their uniforms and present their body with only bras and panties (or covered with a layer of gauze) in front of the man they have never seen before. Then they will put their hands behind their backs and introduce themselves with a smile “Hello, Mr. I am number xx”.
One group after another goes in and out, until one of the girls is chosen and stays in the room behind a closed door. After one hour, two hours, even a whole night the door will open, the chosen girl walks out with a bath towel wrapped around her body. At this time, her hand bag has hundreds or even more yuan of “service fees” in it.
After dividing the profit, she once again goes back to the waiting room for the next customer, or goes back to their rented room to sleep. This is Ah Ping’s work, the same every day.
But, now she is on vacation, as for tonight the exchange was not successful, she said without a care “As if I came out shopping tonight.”
Winter is over?
The news on Dongguan’s sweeping the yellow operation attracted many people’s attention on the internet. Netizens say that sweeping the yellow should not be just a movement and hope to see it continue and never stop. It should not be just a 15 day crackdown. “Is Sweeping the yellow going to actually rectify problems of society or just blow smoke? The best way to cure is to find the root cause, do not give them licenses to operate.”
Despite being a “Miss” for over a year, Ah Ping was never caught by the police. “I am not greedy,” she says. A Ping thinks this is the main reason why she survived the storm this time, whenever she heard anything, she would firmly reject to go to work. Her “co-worker” was arrested by the police last year, “She was jailed for 15 days and fined 5,000 yuan”.
The bosses of the sexual services are also afraid of these kinds of incidents. In order to deal with the police raids, the bosses of some hotels and saunas had the girls take “anti-raid” training sessions. The girl must put on all her clothes neatly in 30 seconds after the initial siren, and leave the scene by using the designated safe passage.
“If I ever hear anything, for sure I will hide in the house and not go out”, A Ping was laughing and joking that she was cowardly. She does not know when she will receive a phone call from her boss to ask her to go back to work, but she stubbornly believes that it was just a matter of time.
Her view appears to be reasonable. The reporter stayed at Dongguan for a week, and even though the police crackdown was still going on, people took risks and still conducted sexual service activities around the clock.
On November 22, the reporter called a few hotels and clubs. Only one said girls are on vacation, all the others said they were “ready to provide satisfying services at any time.” Many of them were five star hotels and high-end clubs.
A five-star hotel’s business manager even bluntly told the reporter that her hotel stopped the operation for only one day. She guaranteed safety, “A high-end hotel is like the business card of the city. Do you think the local government will dirty their own business card?”
In addition to these expensive high-end places, some cheap sex services have also not been able to hold back any longer. The night of November 28, in Houjie town, Dongguan city a hair salon named “Red Rose” was lit with dim pink lights. Five or six girls with heavy makeup and dressed revealingly are sitting on a sofa facing the street.
Outside of the salon, the boss, a middle aged man, would sit on a chair, and while eating a boxed lunch, he was eyeing every man that passed by. “Boss, do you want to play? Very cheap.” He stood up and whispered to the passer-bys from time to time.
The night before the reporter left Dongguan, his cell phone received a “Dongguan Text Message” – “Winter is over, fresh produce is available, we welcome new and old customers to come and have a taste…”