Media in South China's Guangdong Province revealed on Wednesday that giving men masturbation in exchange for money in Guangdong is not considered an act of prostitution, and those who provide these services will not face prosecution.
The Nandu Daily reported that police in Nanhai, Guangdong Province, recently cracked down on a couple of "hair salons" which, aside from hair styling, also offered sexual services such as masturbation and "breast massage," in which a woman massages a client using her breasts.
After detaining the salon owners and the female workers, police found themselves in an awkward situation as a court in Guangdong Province ruled last year that masturbation or "breast massage," acts that do not involve actual intercourse, are not considered to be prostitution.
The change of policy came in 2012, when the Intermediate People's Court in Foshan overruled the verdict of an inferior court and cleared a group of salon workers who had been charged with prostitution for offering masturbation services.
The eye-catching case took place in 2011, when the police investigation showed that several female massage workers were hired to offer services, including masturbation and breast massage, at the salon.
The three salon managers detained were first convicted of organizing prostitution and sentenced to up to five years' imprisonment. But the defendants' lawyer filed an appeal, claiming that their business did not constitute a crime.
The retrial at the Intermediate People's Court in Foshan supported the appeal and the charges were later withdrawn, with an explanation that the crime of prostitution should consist of for-profit sex acts, with masturbation or breast massage excluded.
Luo Guangfei, a criminal lawyer from Guangdong Tide Law Firm in Foshan, told the Global Times that the court ruling should be respected.
"Judged by the Criminal Law, those people are innocent, because there is no sex act or sex trade involved. We may find it uncomfortable ethically, but there is no proof in the law to declare them guilty," Luo said.
He added that he does not think the effect of the Guangdong court ruling will spread to other regions.
The owner of a hair salon in Changzhou, Jiangsu Province was jailed for five years and fined 5,000 yuan ($813) in 2012 for providing such services, according to the Changzhou Daily.
A hair salon owner in Jiangmen, Guangdong Province, was sentenced to one year imprisonment and a 10,000 yuan fine for offering the service in his salon in 2011, the Southern Rural Daily reported.
"But I'm sure that this kind of illegal deed will be incorporated into the country's criminal law soon in the future," said Luo.
Local residents in Guangdong seem unperturbed. Zhang Qian, a local resident in Shenzhen, told the Global Times that such business is commonly seen on the street.
"Girls come up to you and ask if you need it," Zhang said, "Of course, it should not be counted as prostitution because there is no actual sex involved."