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The release of sex workers is only a partial victory for China’s detainees

20 10 8

IF reports are true, this year China may abolish its system of extrajudicial detention for sex workers and their clients. This is welcome news.

China’s sex workers deserve to live and work in safety and eliminating this system would be a major step towards achieving this end. But if this is a victory, it’s a partial one. Though sex worker detention may soon be abolished, similar systems targeting users of drugs and Xinjiang’s Muslims continue to grow.

The end of sex worker detention marks a turning point in the Chinese government’s approach to the sex trade. In the early years of its rule, the Chinese Communist Party viewed sex work, like foot binding and arranged marriage, as a relic of China’s feudal past. Brothels were closed and sex workers forced into new professions. That some may have wished to continue working in the sex trade was an idea the Party never entertained, and by the early 1950s sex work had disappeared in China.

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The hiatus was brief. Post-Mao economic and social reforms led to the re-emergence of sex work and renewed state repression of the trade. Police conducted campaigns against sex workers and their clients, parading them in the streets before passing sentence. Some were detained in the country’s first detention centres for sex workers in Shanghai and Wuhan, opened in 1984.

Six years later there were more than 100 of these........

© Asian Correspondent