Zhang Lijia

Officially prostitution is banned in China, but is booming business at the same time. Author Zhang Lijia is preparing a book on prostitution in China and describes on her weblog how police violence, and their bribes, is part of daily life for the working girls.

Zhang Lijia:

The most horrific [story] was told by a Hubei woman in her mid thirties who calls herself Mei. One night in early November, three policemen suddenly raided her massage parlour and discovered a sperm stained tissue in the bin. With this evidence, Mei was taken to a police station where she was interrogated. She firmly denied having sold sex that night. To force her confession, the policemen hit her and kicked her and then sprayed her with high-pressure water jet. “It felt like being hit by hailstones,” Mei recalled. After two policemen left, the third said openly that he was after money and asked how much she could afford to pay. Mei said two thousand, knowing that it was common practice that you had to pay either a fine or a bribe. The policeman then coerced her into engaging in sexual intercourse before releasing her in the morning. A few days later, the policeman turned up to demand two thousand yuan, which Mei thought she had been exempted from in exchange for the sex.

In a private corner, Mei showed me the bruises on her thighs and legs. Such stories are something I’ve heard over and over again during my research on the daily life of working girls for a non-fiction book on the subject. A while back, one woman in Shenzhen told me how, after she had lost consciousness from a beating, a policeman filled her nose with mustard to wake her up. Another talked about her near-death experience after her head was covered by a plastic bag and her nose pinched. Last November, Yong Gan learnt that a middle-aged woman died of a heart-attack at a police station. Her family was convinced that torture had led to the heart-attack. Many of them, particularly those working in low-class establishments, live in constant fear of police raids, arrests and the inevitable acts of humiliation and violence that are to follow.

More at Zhang Lijia’s weblog. (Earlier published at the South China Morning Post, behind a firewall.)

Zhang Lijia is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need her at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers’ request form.

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