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Chinese women 'tricked into Singapore sex trade by WeChat prostitution ring'

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 4/12/2018 Laurie Chen
a close up of a busy city street: Prostitution in Singapore is legal in licensed brothels but many also operate illegally. Photo: AFP © AFP Prostitution in Singapore is legal in licensed brothels but many also operate illegally. Photo: AFP

Chinese and Singaporean police have cracked down on an international prostitution ring that trafficked mainland Chinese women into Singapore’s sex trade.

Thirty suspects have been arrested, while police found 144 women who were “clearly deceived into sex work”, China’s Ministry of Public Security announced on Monday.

It said police in China and Singapore had discovered the gang in March and that the gang used WeChat and other messaging apps to trick more than a hundred mainland Chinese women into prostitution in Singapore.

Prostitution is technically legal in Singapore in government-approved red light districts, but is heavily regulated and policed. The city state forbids maintaining a brothel, soliciting for sex in public, advertising sex work online, pimping and recruiting women for sex work.

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There are about 80 to 90 licensed brothels thought to be operating in Singapore’s designated red light districts but also many prostitutes working illegally in unlicensed brothels or freelance, according to Vanessa Ho, director of the local sex worker advocacy group Project X.

Singaporean police have cracked down on illegal sex workers in the past, but women are still arriving from places such as Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and China, Ho said.

Prostitution is officially illegal in China, but the trade is widely flourishing underground.

During the investigation, Chinese police identified the main alleged organisers of the trafficking ring as two 27-year-old men, surnamed Zhou and Zhu, from the city of Lianyungang in Jiangsu province, eastern China.

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Chinese and Singaporean police arrested the suspects on November 22 in a joint raid in both countries, Chinese police said.

Fourteen suspected gang members, including the two main alleged organisers, were arrested in Singapore, where the 144 suspected trafficking victims were also found. Sixteen suspected gang members were arrested in China.

According to the investigators, gang members cooperated with criminals in Singapore to lure the women there with promises of highly paid professional work, and forged working visa application documents. The gang then illegally seized profits from prostitution, the police said.

The ministry advised the public to stay vigilant regarding suspicious offers of highly paid work overseas and be aware of possible fraud.

In April, Chinese police broke up another alleged international prostitution ring organised via WeChat and operating in mainland China and Malaysia, arresting 349 suspects in total.

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia. For more SCMP stories, please download our mobile app, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

Copyright (c) 2018. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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