Beijing’s pleasure houses closed in big police crackdown

14 May 2010

Being a patron of prestigious nightclubs in Beijing was once regarded as a status symbol. Today the clubs’ days might be numbered.

In a surprise move, city authorities on Tuesday closed the infamous Passion Club, also known as Tianshang Renjian (“paradise”), amid a wider crackdown on entertainment venues connected with the sex industry, according to state media yesterday.

The Passion Club is well known as one of the most prestigious pleasure houses popular among the rich and the powerful. It used to be owned by flamboyant mainland businessman Qin Hui, who controlled the Hong Kong-listed SMI Corporation. Other clubs frequented by the rich, including many Hong Kong businessmen – such as Mansion 8, Mingmen Yeyan, Huadu and Kaifu – are among 35 entertainment venues that have been shut down for six months in the latest campaign.

According to the Beijing Morning Post, police raided the nightclubs on Tuesday night and found them providing “escort services” and breaching fire safety regulations.

“Many in the trade are lamenting that the police really mean it this time,” said the newspaper, which quoted police insiders as saying that this was the highlight of the anti-prostitution campaign in the capital’s Chaoyang district.

The Beijing Times quoted a police officer as saying that the six-month closure is the maximum penalty for entertainment venues which provide escort services. Police told state media they would continue to clean up the industry and adopt a zero tolerance attitude towards prostitution.

The latest campaign came as Beijing’s new police chief, Fu Zhenghua , vowed to clean up prostitution in the city.

The crackdown started last month. Thousands of entertainment venues were raided, 35 venues closed and 1,132 people detained, according to Xinhua.

Police had also closed 256 “hair salons” that provided sex services, Xinhua said. Police said it was harder to crack down on some entertainment venues because they did not advertise openly and had a members-only system, making them more difficult to identify.

The crackdown has become a hot topic among the city’s powerful and rich as well as visiting businessmen from Hong Kong. Some club owners are said to be well connected to the family members of former top government officials. Previous crack-downs usually led to fines, but the clubs would be allowed to continue operating. This is the first time they have been shut down for such a long period and it will seriously hurt their business.

Previously, Beijing authorities typically cracked down on entertainment venues before important national events such as the National People’s Congress and the National Day. But this latest crackdown has many people puzzled given that many powerful officials and their cronies regularly patronised the nightclubs which appeared to enjoy special protection from high authorities.

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