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Date: Tue, 31 Aug 1999 23:37:02 -0500 (CDT)
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: CHINA: Beijing Clamps New Ban on Prostitution
Article: 74423
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.7317.19990901091619@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** ips.english: 428.0 **/
** Topic: DEVELOPMENT-CHINA: Beijing Clamps New Ban on Prostitution **
** Written 9:05 PM Aug 30, 1999 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **

Beijing Clamps New Ban on Prostitution

By Antoaneta Bezlova, IPS, 30 August 1999

BEIJING, Aug 30 (IPS) - Prostitution in China was deemed dead five decades ago, under the purges and puritan policies of Chairman Mao Zedong, but this vice has reappeared—and under a different name.

'San pei' is the new enemy of the communist censors of morals. It is an obscure term for what translates into the 'three companies' offered by numerous hostesses of nightclubs and karaoke bars throughout China.

Some say the three kinds of company refer to chatting, drinking and dancing with clients, others assert it implies dancing, drinking, and sleeping with them.

Whatever the exact meaning, the government has declared a war on the practice. In July China's cabinet, the State Council, announced a new regulation forbidding nightclub and karaoke bar hostesses from offering 'san pei' services.

Full enforcement of the ban is expected to begin Sep 1.

It was premier Zhu Rongji's personal initiative to slap a ban on 'san pei', says Dr Li Yinhe, one of China's foremost researchers into sexual behaviour and a professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The government had to take measures as there is nothing in our constitution which outlaws prostitution. At the time when the new constitution was drafted, prostitution was considered exterminated, Li explains.

Beijing's announcement of a nationwide regulation which bans payment to club hostesses for chat sessions and more, is a tacit recognition of the widespread existence of prostitution in the country.

After denying for many years that economic reforms introduced by late leader Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s have brought back 'Western vices' to China, the government has at last moved to fight them.

In the past, there have been only sporadic 'sweeping campaigns' aimed at eliminating what the authorities call the yellow vice. The last clean-up for instance, targeted massage parlors where hundreds of migrant girls are said to make a living as sex workers.

The official Xinhua News Agency reported in June that one-fifth of massage parlors inspected by the police all over the country were involved in vice.

In Beijing, according to a top officer from the Ministry of Public Security, police inspected more than 10,000 massage parlors and fined 6,162 for being involved in prostitution.

In Beijing there are streets lined up with small beauty and massage parlors, says a woman who works as a hairdresser in one of Beijing's downtown hotels. During the day, you can get a massage or your hair done there but in the evening, most of these places sell girls' flesh.

She insists that things like that never happen in big hotels in Beijing, because the capital is too concerned with its image of a modern socialist city.

In the country however, the picture looks different. In other cities, it is a routine for hotel guests to receive calls offering them a traditional Chinese massage and a girl to go with it, she says.

The main reason for the spread of prostitution has been the severance of the cradle-to-grave welfare net and rise of unemployment as the government is tries to shed the financial burden of ailing state-owned firms.

Indeed, a U.S.-based human rights group estimates that women in China had lost out more than anyone in the country's move to a more market-based economy.

Human Rights in China said earlier this year that while women made up less than 40 percent of the formal urban workforce, they had suffered 60 percent of the lay-offs in the sector.

It quoted also World Health Organisation figures as saying China was the only country in the world where higher rates of suicide were reported for women than men: With only 21 percent of the world's women, it has 56 percent of the world's female suicides, the group's statement said

Dr Li Yinhe sees the ban on 'san pei' as a positive measure to curb rampant vice, but says it will also hurt many migrant women who come to the cities to look for a job.

It is wrong to believe that all these women out there in the bars are wicked, she says. They are young and pretty and want to make a living.

There are hundreds of thousands of 'san pei' hostesses scattered throughout the country, but Guangdong—the quasi- capitalist bastion of the south—probably has the most. As a result, nightclubs in Guangdong have been given two months to make adjustments before the new policy takes effect in September.

The Guangzhou-based 'Nanfang Daily' reported that nightclub and karaoke managers in the south were hoping that while the government now frowns at 'san pei', its new ban will remain a threat to their businesses only on paper.

Some nightclubs have already drawn up counter-measures, such as renaming the hostesses 'disc jockeys' or 'uniformed waitresses'.