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Prostitution Crackdown Adds to the Woes of China's 'Sex Capital'

Police arrest sex workers and clients in Dongguan, China, on Feb. 9
Police arrest sex workers and clients in Dongguan, China, on Feb. 9Photograph by AFP via Getty Images

The city of Dongguan in southern China is the focus of a new, high-profile crackdown on the country’s thriving sex industry. According to the Chinese media, police have arrested 500 people for prostitution-related offenses since the latest anti-vice campaign began on Feb. 9.

Like many cities in the Pearl River Delta, Dongguan used to be a showcase of China’s reforms but now is struggling to keep up with a rapidly changing Chinese economy. Attracted by the city’s proximity to Hong Kong and the large pool of workers willing to work for low wages, manufacturing companies from Hong Kong and Taiwan saw it as a premier destination. Throughout most of the Oughts, Dongguan’s factories attracted migrant workers from all over China. But more recently, as the government has mandated higher wages and workers from other provinces no longer need to travel so far to find good factory jobs, cities in other parts of the country have become more popular investment destinations.