In lieu of Women’s Day, China Crossroads is highlighting women’s issues in China including: women in the workplace, migrant women, reproductive health and sex workers.
The first article in the series, The Plight of China’s Xiaojies, discusses the abuse, murder and lack of legal representation of China’s sex workers. In an interview with China Newsweek Magazine, Zhao Jun, a leading scholar on the murder cases of China’s women sex workers, a number of facts came to light about these marginalized members of society.
After 12 years as a police officer, Zhao pursued a post doctorate in sociology on the subject of the murder of female sex workers. For over a decade, the 38-year-old scholar collected and studied xiaojie homicides. He gained first hand knowledge about a social issue that has been largely ignored by speaking the sex workers in a friendly way in restaurants, foot massage parlors, KTV or football fields.
Zhao Jun’s study detailed cases from medium-sized cities and coastal cities with a relatively higher degree of development.
Some interesting points from the interview:
- Sex work in China is illegal and xiaojie homicides are frequent (40% of murder cases in Beijing were xiaojies).
- There is no specific xiaojie victim case category or statistics in the public security organs.
- Xiaojie murder cases are not classified in China’s criminal record books.
- In cases where the murderer is found, the punishment is weak for all involved, exacerbating the likelihood of future murders.
- Xiaojies won’t call the police after being assaulted, robbed or kidnapped because under the current legal system, they will fined 5000 RMB, incarcerated for 10 to 15 days or face reeducation through labor for up to two years.
- The murder of xiaojies is one of the most difficult types of criminal cases for the police because xiaojies often have fake identities and are often unwilling to disclose information during an investigation.
- Xiaojies’ contact with unspecific, highly mobile customers makes it difficult to target suspects.
- The failure to xiaojies’ legal rights reflects mainstream discrimination and ignorance towards marginalized groups: their work is marginalized and underground, so too are their rights.
- Most xiaojie murders are not premeditated, but take place when customers quarrel over the price. Customers have been known to smother xiaojies because they are afraid to let people know what they have been doing.
- Rather than police, most xiaojies turn to their bosses, family or friends for help.China’s emergency dialing phone number, 110, does not work for them.
- Xiaojie bosses don’t want police intervention for fear of being sentenced to 5 years imprisonment, criminal detention or the death penalty. Therefore, if the victim makes a report, the boss faces even greater risk.
China Crossroads spoke with Zhao who agreed to answer questions from their readers related to his work and possible solutions. They ask that you submit your questions to [email protected] by Sunday March 15th. All answers will be available the following week.