Zhengzhou’s Wenhua Lu police department on Thursday issued an apology to a policewoman and her daughter who were wrongly arrested on suspicion of being sex workers during a recent raid, according to the SCMP.
“We would again like to express our sincere apologies to the mother and daughter,” the department wrote on its microblog, adding that the policemen responsible for the arrest had been suspended from active duty pending an investigation.
The off-duty police officer, a 53 year old woman surnamed Wang, and her daughter were arrested on Monday evening after police forced their way into the daughter’s apartment in what they referred to as a “summer operation to catch prostitutes, strike at gambling”.
The police officers carried through with the arrests even after Wang told them she was a policewoman and showed them her badge.
The mistaken arrests resulted in public outcry against the Wenhua Lu police department, as several instances of arbitrary police action such as this have happened in the past.
According to a report by the New York-based Human Rights Watch, women in mainland China suspected of being sex workers are often subjected to abuse and torture by arresting officers.
“The report, based on 140 interviews with sex workers, clients, police, public health officials and NGO workers, found that sex workers are vulnerable to public health risks and police abuse, including arbitrary arrests and fines, beatings and torture.”
In many cases, arbitrary raids and crackdowns result in horrifying scenarios.
“Meng Xiang… a pseudonym, used to run a Wuhan massage parlour. She said that during one raid, police smashed windows, televisions, tables and chairs and forced sex workers to pose for photos naked and beat them when they refused to co-operate. She was detained for 15 days because she did not pay protection fees to police.”
Because of this, many sex workers have stopped carrying around condoms and even birth control so as not to appear suspicious, further escalating their own and public health risks.
Human Rights Watch recommended that the government legalize solicitation and put an end to crackdowns and raids that often result in coerced confessions and torture.
Last year, controversial blogger-activist Ye Haiyan (who was recently imprisoned) decided to become a prostitute for a day to better understand and speak up for rural sex workers.
“Please try to understand their fear and anxiety,” she wrote in her micro blog. “[The sister] just wants to earn RMB 20, but someone is watching her purse at every instant, trying to snatch RMB 3,000 from her. How can she be happy? The undercover sting operations keep them living in fear, never knowing if a man is a real client or a police rat, the difference between whether or not she’ll earn RMB 20 or lose RMB 3,000.”
[Image credit: HYLA 2009]