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Parade of Prostitutes Lands Shenzhen Police in Hot Water
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Local police have come under strong criticism from the public and lawyers 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 the police had not broken any laws 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 the bureau would soon release an official response to the incident.

The municipal government of this southern city 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 started last Wednesday when Shenzhen police arrested 100 prostitutes, pimps and their clients, including at least 10 Hong Kong residents, during an anti-vice raid. The officers dressed the alleged offenders in bright yellow T-shirts and masks and paraded them on the streets.

Police also read their names, ages and places of origin out to the public. The parade attracted more than 1,000 spectators, who applauded.

However, wide media coverage of the incident sparked widespread public concern over whether the police had violated the privacy and human rights of the people they had arrested.

Shanghai lawyer Yao Jianguo published a petition to the Standing Committee of 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 said the suspects could be punished only after being judged guilty in court. He noted that the arrested people had not 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 reserved," 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 a recent graduate surnamed Cao who rents an apartment in the area.

(China Daily December 7, 2006)

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