Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

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Monday, November 6, 2006

Is China moving toward the legalization of prostitution?

Pic061107In most countries an op-ed piece wouldn't mean much, but it's at least an interesting straw in the wind when an op-ed piece appears in the China Daily suggesting that it would perhaps not be a terrible thing, all things considered, to legalize prostitution, or at least to tolerate it in some form. The author was commenting on the controversy that ensued when AIDS prevention authorities in Harbin invited 50 xiaojie (the usual euphemism) to a lecture on prevention of AIDS and venereal disease. Staff members distributed gifts, pamphlets, and condoms. Apparently the police were complaining about the dilemma they were placed in: they could not arrest the xiaojie because that would have tarnished the credibility of the sponsoring organization. (It does not seem to have occurred to them that the act of attending a lecture aimed at prostitutes is not an offense.) As the author of the commentary can't resist pointing out, it's hard to take the police complaints seriously: if they really wanted to arrest these xiaojie, surely they could have done so at any time before the lecture. How is it that the health department managed to identify them while the police could not?

Incidentally, a colleague has pointed out that this piece seems to be a condensed version of a longer  article in the Oct. 19, 2006 issue of Southern Weekend (南方周末) authored by a different person. No further comment.

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The government and policy-makers, on the one hand, have to tackle the problem of AIDS and take measures to prevent it from spreading widely; on the other, they realize that prostitution in China is against public policy. And there exist the conflicting interests and different policy goals between the Public Health department and the Police department on the issue. It's really a dilemma.

Posted by: Wang | Nov 8, 2006 9:31:11 AM

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