Sex workers pose as models, actresses and advertise on WeChat

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-5-11 19:33:01

Wenzhou police in Zhejiang Province detain six sex workers in a raid in 2012.Photo: CFP

On WeChat, China's most popular instant messaging platform, some chat groups have promised they could arrange models and pop stars to be sexual partners for those willing to pay the high price.

If you look up the online profiles of these beautiful women, you can find extensive biographies detailing their personal information including when they got their break in the entertainment industry, the awards they have won and the names of the magazines and films in which they have featured. There are pictures of them looking glamorous at red-carpet events.

Despite the extent of the biographical details provided, unsurprisingly, they are all untrue. These sex workers are not really famous models nor actresses. They simply pretend to be celebrities so they can charge their customers more money for their services.

On May 5, the People's Procuratorate of Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, arrested five people who were involved in soliciting prostitution via WeChat, and this case has brought online prostitution into light.

Online organizations

According to the Southern Metropolis Daily, two of the suspects, surnamed Qiao and Du, both worked in the sex industry. They both have their own Baidu and Weibo profiles, with Qiao's saying that she was born in South Korea and is of mixed Chinese and Korean descent.

The profiles claim that she was once the winner of a high-profile beauty pageant and has modeled for several skincare and food companies. Du was described online as an actress that has worked with several fashion magazines and television shows.

Police however found that Du's real surname is Jiang, and that she was the ringleader of a WeChat sex work group.

Jiang used WeChat to establish a group named "Shenzhen entertainment circle" with two other suspects surnamed Zhang and Gu. They would invite customers and sex workers to join their group and then earn referral fees by arranging meetings between the two groups. They themselves would also sleep with paying johns.

Innovating and moving away from traditional sex marketing techniques, Jiang, Zhang and Gu set up several groups on WeChat with members that included middlemen, photographers, photo editors and sex workers.

In the groups, members and administrators would send sex workers' and customers' information to each other. The information included the planned location of the sex, prices, the sex worker's appearance, the worker's popularity and customer's requirements. Some women would even fly to other countries to provide sexual services after sealing a deal.

Whoever introduced the customer to the sex worker was paid referral fees, as sex workers would pay the money to the referrer through WeChat's payment function. If a sex worker tried to evade the fee, her personal information and behavior would be posted on the group chat so that other members would also refuse to do business with her. She would also be kicked out of the group.

From mediocrity to glamour

Sex workers who wanted to be paid better would contact photographers in the group to help them take professional-looking, sexy pictures. The photographers would then edit their pictures with computer software. Some companies even helped them create detailed fake biographies and contact some Web companies to spread the information online. As a result, when johns tried to search for them online, they would see comprehensive profiles claiming that the women were top models and popular actresses, along with convincingly professional pictures. The sex workers were then able to charge their customers thousands of yuan more than they could otherwise.

The Shenzhen People's Procuratorate said among the five suspects who were arrested, some are sex workers while some are referral agents who introduced sex workers to customers.

According to the Southern Metropolis Daily, the people who helped with taking or editing pictures and doing promotional work for the sex workers were also arrested.

"Following the increasing police efforts targeting the prostitution industry, many prostitution groups have moved their business online. They make use of the convenience of some mobile social applications in order to escape the eyes of the police," Tao Ran, a procurator of the People's Procuratorate of Shenzhen said.

"However, organizing, introducing and providing a venue for prostitution activities are all illegal offences. Despite the fact that the Internet has made it challenging for police to crack down on prostitution, the five who were arrested in May shows that the Internet is not a safe haven," he added, Yangcheng Evening Post reported.

Stronger supervision

Apart from enhancing police efforts and encouraging people not to provide sexual services, Tao hoped the mobile application operators could strengthen their supervision of their users and improve their monitoring systems.

"Mobile social application operators should fulfill their social responsibility of strengthening their supervision of their users' messages, analyze the messages' target region and the means of their transmission. Also, the operators should enforce greater supervision of pornographic photographs and set up an Internet alarm system so that such pornographic content could be removed instantly," he continued. "Groups who released illegal content should also be blocked or deleted."

In fact, the Shenzhen WeChat prostitution case also reflects the fact that some search engine companies may have been involved in the practice of releasing information only after receiving certain amount of money, while the fact that search engines allowed the sex workers' fictitious information to be uploaded is one of the key factors that assisted their illegal activities.

"Some search engine companies are too focused on their commercial interests, or did not regulate their staff strictly, resulting in the publication of pornographic and fake content. Police will continue a zero tolerance attitude towards such phenomenon," he said, adding that the practice of search engine companies releasing information after receiving money should be legally regulated.

"After all, we deserve a healthy online environment," Tao concluded.

The Guangdong Provincial Public Security Department announced early this year that they dealt with more than 4,500 prostitution cases in 2014, arresting 6,357 people, a 260 percent increase year on year. Dongguan, in particular saw the most arrests.

Newspaper headline: Mobile madams

Posted in: Society

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