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Prostitute Parade Lands Police in Hot Water
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Local police in Shenzhen have come under fire from both the public and legal authorities after parading a group of prostitutes and their clients up and down a crowded street.

However, an anonymous police official was quoted by the Guangzhou-based newspaper New Express as saying no laws had been broken with the controversial move.

"Only the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress has the right to respond in connection with the concerned legal clauses," the officer was quoted as saying.

The spokesman of the Shenzhen Police Bureau told China Daily yesterday that an official response would soon be released.

Shenzhen's municipal government declined to provide a formal response.

"The police have submitted materials to the government, but we have no comment now," said a government spokesman.

The controversy began last Wednesday when Shenzhen police arrested 100 prostitutes, pimps and their clients, including at least 10 Hong Kong residents, during an anti-vice bust. The officers dressed the suspects in bright yellow T-shirts and masks before parading them through on the streets.

Police also read their names, ages and places of origin out to a 1000-strong crowd, who applauded the move.

Despite any instant popularity the move may have generated, wide-spread media coverage has triggered a public uproar over whether the privacy and human rights of those arrested had been violated.

Shanghai lawyer Yao Jianguo published a petition to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on an Internet forum on Sunday, claiming the action was illegal and would negatively affect the reputation of the Chinese government within the international community.

In his petition, Yao stated the suspects could be punished only after being judged guilty in a court of law, noting that none of the arrested people had yet been sent to court.

About 70 percent of the 150,000 people who responded to a survey on sina.com said they opposed the actions taken by Shenzhen police. "These people may have done something wrong, but their dignity should have been preserved," said one netizen.

Some local citizens said they doubted that the parade was necessary. "The police were staging a show. They should find ways to root out the illegal sex industry instead of spending their time parading prostitutes," said Zheng Yan, an employee of an electronics company.

However, residents from the neighborhoods near where the raid took place said they supported the police.

"This is the only way these cheeky prostitutes and their clients will learn. People from outside the neighborhood can not imagine how the quality of our lives has deteriorated because of these nuisances," said Cao, a recent graduate who rents an apartment in the area.

(China Daily December 7, 2006)

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