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Some laws about sex work

In Hong Kong, commercial sexual service between two adults is not illegal. Therefore, as a Hong Kong resident, it is not illegal to work as a sex worker. However, in reality, sex workers are charged of and thus tied up by different laws surrounding the sex industry.

Chapter 200 Crimes Ordinance

Sect. 147. Soliciting for an Immoral Purpose
“A person shall be guilty if he/she in a public place or in view of the pubic solicits for any immoral purpose, or loiters for the purpose of soliciting for any immoral purpose.”

However, in reality, in most cases only sex workers are arrested and prosecuted. Police and courts often assume that streetwalkers must be the ones who solicit. Sex workers are prosecuted even on certain occasions that customers or plainclothes officers are the ones to solicit.

Sect. 139. Keeping a Vice Establishment
“A person shall be guilty if he/she keeps, or manages or assists in the management, or is in charge or control of any premises, vessel, or place kept as a vice establishment.”

Sect. 143. Letting premises for use as a vice establishment
Sect. 144. Tenant etc. permitting premises or vessel to be kept as a vice establishment
Sect 145. Tenant etc. permitting premises or vessel to be used for prostitution 
“The owner, or tenant, or agent, or occupier, or person in charge of any premises or vessel shall be guilty if he/she knowingly lets, or permits or suffers the whole or part of the premises to be kept as a vice establishment, or to be used for the purpose of habitual prostitution.”

Therefore, it is not illegal for a local resident to work individually in an apartment to provide sexual service. However, sex workers in “one-woman-apartments” are still targeted. They may be charged if they hire “temporary workers’ or take shifts with other women to work in the same premises.

Law enforcers also target on landlords, work partners and partners of sex workers. It threatens and places them under pressure. The related laws, in principle, protect sex workers from coercion and exploitation. However, the execution of laws makes it more difficult for sex workers to secure their basic livings.

For instance, landlords of sex workers are warned of the possibility of being charge and are required by the police to terminate the contacts and force the sex workers to move out.

Sect. 137. Living on Earnings of prostitution of others
“A person shall be guilty if he/she knowingly lives wholly or in part on the earnings of prostitution of another person.”

Sex workers are not allowed to hire a bodyguard or care taker. They are therefore forced to work alone in an isolated and dangerous situation, exposed to risks of violence, i.e. harassments, physical assaults, robberies, rapes and murders.

Sect. 147A. Prohibition of Signs Advertising Prostitution
There are cases that women who only showed the sign “Welcome” on the doors were charged of “Prohibition of signs advertising prostitution”.

Migrant Sex Workers

Chapter 115 Immigration Ordinance
Sect. 41. Breach of Condition of Stay

It is illegal for a tourist visa holder to work in Hong Kong, and for a work visa holder to engage in any form of work that deviates from the purposes they claimed for visa application.

Migrant sex workers, from Mainland China or other countries, usually are charged of “Breach of Condition of Stay” if they are found engage in sex work in Hong Kong. On many occasions, no matter there is evidence to prove that these women are working in Hong Kong, they are simply deported back to the place of origin without trial, as long as they are suspected and identified as “unwelcome to stay in Hong Kong”.

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