Prostitution in Hong
is itself legal, but organized prostitution is
illegal, as there are laws against keeping a vice establishment
), causing or procuring another to
be a prostitute, living on the prostitution of others, or public
The most visible public venues for sex
in Hong Kong, especially for tourists
, are topless bars , karaoke
and the so called "Japanese style night clubs
". However, most of the commercial sex worker
industry consists of women working in small, usually one room
apartments, usually referred to as "one-woman brothels", the equivalent of the "walk-up brothel"
in the United
They advertise for clients through the
and local classifieds. Most
popular mainstream newspapers
such classifieds with a brothel guides as an insert within racing
form guides. Yellow neon advertising boxes were used to advertise
sexual services to such an extent that "yellow" (黃) became
synonymous with prostitution.
The laws of Hong Kong currently allow classified ads for
prostitution and websites that allow clients to make appointments
From 1879 to 1932, prostitution
decriminalized and prostitutes were required to register for
licenses, pay tax
, and have regular health
examination. Prostitution boomed in the districts of Sai Ying Pun
, Wan Chai
and Yau Ma
. In 1930, Hong Kong, with a population of 1.6 million, boasted 200
legal brothels with over 7,000 licensed prostitutes.
1932, the Hong Kong government
issued a ban on prostitution and three years later licensed
prostitution ended. From that time on, prostitution was permitted
within strict limits while prohibiting a whole host of activities
surrounding prostitution, such as soliciting for sex
and living off "immoral earnings" (working as a
Although organized prostitution is illegal, the industry had always
depended on gangsters (triads
) to recruit
economically disadvantaged women who otherwise would never enter
the profession voluntarily. Until the 1980s, most Hong Kong
underground sex establishments were run by gangsters. During the
1990s, however, Hong Kong saw a massive shift in the form of
prostitution. There was an influx of "northern girls" ( ) from
who worked as
prostitutes illegally in Hong Kong on their short tourist visas;
local voluntary prostitutes also increased dramatically in number.
As a result, gangsters could no longer make a profit by coercion
and their controlling power declined.
Types and venues
- Street hookers: they may
sometimes be seen on the pavements of Yau Ma
Tei, Sham Shui Po, Tsuen Wan, Yuen Long and Tuen Mun.
Usually pimps or gangsters are not involved and
the prostitute will loiter in the street in search of customers.
After a deal is struck, they would go to a love hotel. Before the Asian financial crisis in 1998,
street prostitutes would offer a "set course" of services; after
that, the set price dropped by half. Some girls will hang around
the lobbies of hotels, and will even knock on the doors of the
rooms of single men after being tipped off by the concierge. In
more down-market accommodation the concierge may ask customers if
they require company. Russian and other european prostitutes
generally charge higher and are generally located in the business
distrist of Central.
- One-woman brothel: (一樓一鳳 jat1 lau4 jat1 fung2
Yīlóu-yīfèng): by Hong Kong law it is
illegal for two or more prostitutes to work in the same premise. As
a result, the most common form of legal prostitution in Hong Kong
is the so-called "one-woman brothel", where one woman receives
customers in her apartment. The expense of the older centers of such
activity has led to towns in the New
Territories such as Yuen
Long and Sheung Shui.
becoming centers for the one-woman brothel trade. This law
however has little influence on the density of prostitute activity,
the nature of Hong Kong housing meaning that entire floors of some
buildings or even whole apartment blocks may consist of one woman
brothels, with in some the letter of the law being adhered to by
the subdivision of flats into multiple individual dwellings.
- Saunas and massage parlours: ostensibly these
are regular saunas with the management turning a blind eye to other
services the masseuses may offer. Usually the "menu" on offer will
fall just short of vaginal
intercourse, with manual stimulation with hands ("hand-job"),
breasts ("milk-job" or "Russian") and oral sex ("BJ") being amongst
the services available after negotiation.
- Night club workers: the term nightclub in Hong Kong is being driven from
general use for being used as a euphemism for hostess clubs. Hostesses receive a basic
retainer and commission for having customers buy expensive drinks,
customers pay the club for the privilege of taking the girls out by
buying out the girls "time", whatever comes after being a matter of
negotiation between the customer and hostess. A similar format can
be found at some karaoke lounge with
private rooms and even some so called "internet bars".
- Freelance: the growth of the Internet has
facilitated a practice similar to compensated dating with amateur
prostitutes offering their services on message boards and
Migrant sex workers
Thailand and Philippines
Another major aspect of this trade is migrant sex workers. These
sex workers are particularly visible in the Wan
district, catering mainly to Western businessmen and
tourists. The sex workers operating in this area are predominantly
(including transsexuals) and
. Many work on a freelance
basis in Wan Chai bars and discothèques.
There are several NGOs
that work closely with
sex workers in Hong Kong; these include Ziteng
and Aids Concern. Ziteng
campaigns for changes in the law, in particular the overturn of ban
on brothels with more than one prostitute, since this prevents sex
workers banding together for protection.
Many migrant sex workers arrive on a short tourist visa and try to
make as much as money as possible by prostituting illegally before
leaving Hong Kong, some returning frequently. There are also
"underground" organizations (such as Thai restaurants and escort
bars) that arrange for foreign (usually Thai) and mainland girls to
gain work in Hong Kong legally with an entertainment visa, but in
fact they actually work in go-go bars
or other hostess clubs around Hong
Despite the more visible presence of Thai and Filipino sex workers
in Hong Kong, the majority of migrant sex workers who come to Hong
Kong are from mainland China
. It is
reported that with RMB10,000-20,000, mainland Chinese girls would
normally secure a three-month visa. Other frequent or previously
deported visitors might experience tight visa requirements and
would normally obtain only seven-day visas. Owing to the short
stays and other expensive costs (to pay for the travel arrangements
and cover the high cost of renting apartments, advertising etc. in
Hong Kong), sex workers would exert all their energy and work from
morning till night during their seven-day stay. The necessity to
make money quickly also means that the sex workers are more likely
to take risks. Also if the sex workers are abused, they are less
likely to seek redress from the relevant authorities.
Many mainland girls advertise their services on websites where they
put their pictures, contact numbers and service charges. The
youngest and most attractive may offer their services to customers
at three- or four-star hotels and provide their services there;
their own accommodation is less likely to be of this quality, but
usually within a walk or short ride away from the main clusters of
hotels, to which they are led to by their pimps, known locally as
Older, less attractive girls will find themselves working in the
one woman brothels as "phoenixes" (鳳), a term derived from the
similarity of the Chinese word for prostitute to that of chicken
(雞). Prices are lower than for girls who target
the tourist hotels, variations in price being a product of
location, with those working within the corridor formed by Nathan Road being on the whole higher than that found in the
towns of the New
A handwritten sign advertising the
prices for various nationalities of women outside a brothel on Soy
Street in Kowloon
Prostitution in Hong Kong is legal, but subject to various
restrictions, mainly intended to keep it away from the public eye.
These restrictions are manifested in the form of prohibiting a
whole host of activities surrounding prostitution, including
soliciting and advertising for sex, working as pimps, running
brothels and organized prostitution. For instance, by the Hong Kong
legal code Chapter 200 Section 147, any person who "solicits for
any immoral purpose" in a public place may receive a maximum
penalty of HK$ 10,000 and six months' imprisonment. In practice, a
woman on the street in certain areas well-known for streetwalkers
such as Sham Shui Po
might well be
arrested even if seen smiling at a male passerby. Advertisement of
sex services, including signboards, illuminated signs and posters,
is also prohibited, and an offence may result in imprisonment for
Organized prostitution, in the form of directing "over another
person for the purpose of... that person's prostitution", is
forbidden by Section 130, and an offence may result in 14 years of
imprisonment. Sections 131 and 137, which are aimed at pimps,
stipulate a jail sentence of seven years as the maximum penalty for
"procuring another person to become a prostitute" and "living on
earnings of prostitution of others". Under Hong Kong law, it is
also illegal to organize arrangement of sex deals for more than one
woman; violators are subject to a HK$20,000 fine and seven years'
imprisonment. Therefore, if two women are found serving customers
in the same apartment, it is an illegal brothel. This gives rise to
the so-called "one-woman brothel" where one woman receives
customers in her apartment, which is restricted by Section 141,
which prohibits young persons to engage in prostitution. This is
the most common form of legal prostitution in Hong Kong.
Strategies to avoid the prohibition on brothels
Brothels are illegal, prostitution in private however is legal. To
avoid this prohibition, in practice much of the prostitution is
controlled by triad
societies or as
informal additions to otherwise nonsexual services such as massage
parlors, bars and karaoke
Among the many forms of prostitution common in Hong Kong are "one
for one" girls. To avoid the operation of an illegal brothel,
triads will rent tiny apartments and allow girls to "sublet" them
so they appear to be operating out of their own homes. The triads
then advertise the girls' services on web sites or in local
publications. Another avoidance strategy is to operate a karaoke
establishment and provide girls as entertainment or companionship
only; the girls then take customers to an hourly hotel in the same
building and pay for the room separately. Informal, individual
prostitution (mostly of Filipinas, Indonesians, Thais, and
sometimes women from Latin America and the former Soviet Union) is
almost always available at discos or hotel bars, especially in the
Tsui and Wan Chai districts (the
latter famous as the setting for The World of Suzie Wong.
Occasionally the police raid the triad-run prostitution setups, but
usually the only arrests made are for immigration violations.
frequently enter Hong Kong from mainland China for
However, this travel is not forcible;
most women working as prostitutes in Hong Kong are of age and are
doing so voluntarily .
Movies about prostitution in Hong Kong
- The World of
Suzie Wong (1961)
- Call Girl 1988 (應召女郎一九八八
Yìngzhào Nǚláng Yījiǔbābā)
- Hong Kong Gigolo (香港舞男) (1990), starring Simon Yam
- Girls Without
Tomorrow 1992 (現代應召女郎, 92應召女郎) (1992), starring Vivian Chow
- Call Girls '94 (94應召女郎) (1994)
- Durian Durian (榴槤飄飄,
榴槤飄香) (2000), directed by Fruit Chan
- Hollywood Hong-Kong
(香港有個荷里活) (2001), directed by Fruit Chan
- Public Toilet
(人民公廁) (2002), directed by Fruit Chan
- Golden Chicken (金雞)
(2002), starring Sandra Ng
- Golden Chicken 2 (金雞2)
(2004), starring Sandra Ng
- Whispers and Moans (性工作者十日談) (2007) a film by Herman
Yau based on the book of the same name starring Athena Chu, and Mandy
Books about prostitution in Hong Kong
- Whispers and Moans: Interviews with the men and women of
Hong Kong's sex industry by Yeeshan Yang (Blacksmith Books,
- Internet Pimps in Hong Kong
- Yang, 52.
- Yang, 53.
- Yang, 57.
- Yang, 145.
- Yang, 21.
- Hong Kong legal code Chapter 200 Section 139 Keeping a vice
- Yang, 55.
- Yang, 99.
- Yang, 99-100.
- Yang, 100.
- Hong Kong legal code Chapter 200 Section 147A Prohibition of
signs advertising prostitution.
- Hong Kong legal code Chapter 200 Section 130 Control over
persons for purpose of unlawful sexual intercourse or
- Hong Kong legal code Chapter 200 Section 131 Causing
prostitution and Section 137 Living on earnings of prostitution of
- Hong Kong legal code Chapter 200 Section 141 Permitting young
person to resort to or be on premises or vessel for intercourse,
prostitution, buggery or homosexual act.