A crackdown on prostitution in entertainment venues has expanded from Dongguan to the whole of Guangdong Province, with law enforcers to focus on those who protected the illegal sex trade.
All cities and districts of the province will be targeted, following a television exposé of prostitution in a number of hotels in Dongguan on Sunday.
Li Chunsheng, Guangdong provincial public security chief, called for severe punishments to those who provided a "protection umbrella" for the prostitution business and to corrupt police officers.
"No matter who, no matter what venues are found to be involved, even if it is a public security institution or government sector, they must be dealt with severely," Li said at a teleconference on Monday.
He said his department will send working groups to all cities for undercover investigations. Police from other cities will be deployed to investigate and make arrests if local police fail to fulfill their responsibility.
After an overnight police raid in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province on Monday, police arrested 98 suspects, raided 807 massage and bath houses, 1,228 hotels, 636 hair salons and 465 KTV parlors, China News Service reported.
Police will also carry out investigations into those who advertise prostitution services on websites, by cellphone text messages and on Internet chat software. Police have released a hotline for informants to report information on the trade.
There are between 500,000 to 800,000 sex workers in Dongguan, accounting for 10 percent of all migrant workers in the city, according to previous media reports. Revenue from the sex industry in Dongguan in 2011 was estimated at 50 billion yuan ($8.3 billion), some 14 percent of the city's GDP.
Guangdong Provincial Public Security Department declined to offer more details when reached by the Global Times.
A number of entertainment venues that featured in the television report have already been closed down.
It is also believed that the criminal organizations from Hong Kong and Macao are involved in Guangdong's entertainment business. According to the Hong Kong-based Ta Kung Pao newspaper, criminal organizations invested in some hotels which operated sex, drug and gambling businesses.
A source from Guangdong police told Ta Kung Pao that the hotels are used as hideouts for gangsters and as a way to launder money. Chinese mainland police are expected to cooperate with their Hong Kong and Macao counterparts to gather information on the whereabouts of criminals.
Hong Daode, a professor with the China University of Political Science and Law, said the crackdown emphasizes the Chinese government's intent to battle corruption as local police may have provided protection for illegal sex businesses in exchange for money.
The anti-prostitution campaign might expand to other regions or even nationwide, Hong said.