Sunday, January 22, 2006

Willie the Pimp
''Um...can I call you back, dear? I'm trying to interview a pimp in his apartment at the moment...''
That's what foreign barbarian former coworker Jeff would've called a "OIC" (Only in China) moment. C was calling me in Shenzhen on Friday afternoon where I'd gone with my faithful photographer/translator Simon to try to get some sort of readable story regarding the city's latest crackdown in order to "improve social order."
In this case, the city fathers had targeted an area called Shazui Village -- also known as "Mistress Village" due to its plethora of karaoke bars, massage parlors, discos and other sex industry-related enterprises and their attendant popularity with male Hong Kong visitors who come over to visit their "second wives." About 170 total had been suddenly padlocked on Wednesday, 60 of which were in Shazui. (Oddly, an adult sex toys shop was still open as were two Internet bars; the Internet cafes had also reportedly been targeted.)
About 2,000 (or 5,000, despending on who was doing the counting) of the suddenly unemployed hookers, owners and employees had taken to the streets Thursday in a sudden and somewhat unlikely show of protest and spent about 6 hours outside the SZ city government headquarters where they chanted slogans such as "We want to eat, we need to live, we need money." Finally 20 busloads of them were peacefully herded into buses and taken to various police stations. Ultimately 1 was detained on criminal charges and 25 others were detained for 15 days just for the helluvit.
Simon and I were at Red Light Ground Zero to get reaction and to see how effective the closures at been. While cops and security guards lounged outside closed bars, in the neighboring lanes and alleys pimps were plentiful and that's how we wound up in Zhau's crib watching his wife chop vegatables and sweep the floor and trying to nag him into no-interview.
It wasn't easy. Though about 10 of his stable initially seemed thrilled to meet Simon and I, their interest vanished quickly when they learned we weren't there as customers.
Desperate, I asked Zhau if we paid one her standard fee (about US$12-15) would she talk with us? Seemed like an easier way to make some money than putting your health, self esteem and general security at risk by having sex with a strange, fat barbarian from Hong Kong. And it would be my problem only to try to figure out how to get reimbursed for this unorthodox "travel expense."
"He says 'no','' Simon told me. "They are all afraid of talking to any newspapers."
"So they'd rather have sex with a stranger than just talk with him?"
"Basically, yes."
Zhau himself was reluctant, though his wife's non-stop harping finally drove us all out of his bare, spartan two bedroom 5th floor walkup to the streets where we finally hid out in a nearly-deserted juice bar and I plyed him with a mango smoothie.
While a SZ city flack told us by phone that all businesses were shutdown due to licensing and code violations, Zhau had another, more conspiratorial take on the situation -- civic graft.
"The business owners will have to bribe the city officials if they want to reopen," he said. As for him, he said he and his girls were facing ruin unless horny Hong Kong tourists could be lured back. ''About 70 percent of my customers were from Hong Kong. I'm worried for myself, my wife and also for the girls and all the bar owners and employees. I'll have to get a temporary construction job if nothing changes.''
Remember to post a link, when this article airs. :-)
Many thanks for the request, Peter but the published article was not as interesting as the blog in my very humble opinion. I included all the basics (or most of 'em). And the news article had little or nothing about the seamier side of trying to get sex workers to talk.
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