Prostitute on a rope in Dongguan
It’s taken a while, considering public opinion had already turned against the practice years ago, but the Ministry of Public Security has finally issued an edict saying that police around the country are no longer allowed to publicly shame prostitutes and johns as a method of stopping the acts from happening.
According to a circular issued by the Ministry of Public Security, provincial security departments must absolutely not conduct activities such as prostitute parades, or anything else that would undermine human dignity, while cracking down on prostitution in their respective cities.
The rule comes after last year’s crackdown yielded a plethora of controversial “public shaming” incidents along with the illegal workers it allegedly caught. Many of those incidents backfired dramatically, with ordinary citizens horrified by the brutal police tactics used on both the girls and the johns.
For instance, one widely reported incident in October last year saw police officers pulling a panicked woman’s hair so her face appears on camera, yelling at her to answer how many men she’d slept with that night. They then posted photos of her through news broadcasts and online. Netizens were outraged, and an online survey found that only 8% of respondents felt the police had handled the situation correctly.
Much more recently, Guangdong police in Dongguan came under fire after they released pictures of prostitutes they caught handcuffed and barefoot, led through the streets on a rope. Dongguan police backpedaled quickly, arguing that they hadn’t meant to publicly shame anyone, and this was just standard protocol that happened to be photographed and that the media put up.
But public opinion against public shaming has been around since at least 2006, when citizens were outraged by a prostitute parade in Shenzhen. The event caused one Shanghai lawyer, Yao jianguo, to write an open letter to the National People’s Congress saying that such actions not only show no respect for individual dignity but are unlawful in themselves – laws passed in the 1980s made Cultural Revolution era parading of counterrevolutionaries a thing of the past.
Like most edicts related to PSB tactics, the MPS doesn’t go into detail about what it will do if it does find out that public shaming has occured, besides that it will “investigate the matter and deal with it accordingly.” But, despite the toothlessness of this new rule, at least it’s finally there.