Hong Kong: The diverse experiences of Hong Kong’s sex workers

“When my ex-husband and I divorced, he didn’t give me any money, and I had no work experience and bad Cantonese, so I entered the sex industry. It has given me more freedom – I’ve had time to take care of my daughter, who has now graduated! She is going to be a lawyer! But I won’t tell her that her mother is in this industry, because I’m afraid that it’ll affect her future.” – Tung Tung, courtesy of AFRO

“Why did I enter the industry? To forget my emotions! I want to rely on myself, earn money gradually, and not need to rely on any man.” – Yi-man, courtesy of AFRO

Tung Tung and Yi-man are two of Hong Kong’s estimated 20,000 sex workers – including both women and men – who work in the city’s nightclubs, bars, restaurants, and saunas, and rented rooms.

While Tung Tung, 50, did not intend to join the industry when she first arrived in Hong Kong from the mainland. She found in sex work a means of providing for herself and her daughter in an environment where she did not speak the language. Yi-man, 57, still works as a sex worker today.

As older women, Tung Tung and Yi-man do not fit conventional ideas regarding sex work – where young, local women participate in the industry as a temporary and necessary economic measure.

Nor is sex work widely accepted in society as a legitimate industry – social stigma is embedded in the derogatory language used to describe the act of requesting sexual services: “calling chicken” and “calling duck” for female and male sex workers respectively.

In the midst of prevalent conservative attitudes, advocates in the city are fighting to dismantle stereotypical ideas of the “sex worker” identity, and to uphold workers’ labour rights.

Sex work: Legal but criminalised

Martin Lau is a member of the Hong Kong Sex Culture Society, a Christian-based organisation that aims to “uphold family values.” He said that while people have a right to have open attitudes regarding sex, broader societal tolerance for the sex industry would mean widespread approval of the exploitation of the human body. Read more via HKFP