Chinese manufacturing hub has been hit hard by a crackdown on once-thriving sex industry, which was the engine that powered much its economy
“Li Hong, sister, how long do you think it will last?”
Bingbing, a prostitute in her 20s, chatted with a friend at a fast food stall in the Changping district. In a black dress that hugged her curves, she mused about the city’s crackdown on the sex trade.
“I’ve just been sitting and playing mahjong since February. I haven’t earned a cent,” she said.
Bingbing’s friend, Li Hong, looked gloomy. In her 30s, she wore a low-cut dress and jeans. The pair tucked into their food on Swan Lake Road, once one of the city’s notorious red light districts.
“I heard it will last at least three months,” Li said. “I don’t think we’ll have any good days until July or August.”
Prostitution was once rife in Dongguan, a former industrial hub in Chiba’s Guangdong province that welcomed the sex trade after its manufacturing industry tumbled in the wake of the global financial crisis in 2008.
No one knows exactly how many people worked in the sex industry. Local analysts estimated there were more than 250,000 prostitutes at its peak, and that the business generated about 50 billion yuan (HK$63 billion) a year.
The city was linked so closely with the illicit trade that Dongguan starred on the silver screen in a 2012 movie called Due West: My Sex Journey, a screen adaptation of an erotic online novel about a young Hong Kong man’s adventures seeking sex services.
But Dongguan’s red lights began to go dark in February. Authorities started a campaign to wipe out prostitution after state television reported on the city’s flourishing sex industry.