“Most of the problems in the trade arise over payment disputes. Some customers allow themselves to be pulled into the brothel by ladies using la ke tactics and promising low prices,” Pan said. “However, once the customers are inside, they get sweet-talked to hire 10 or more bar hostesses for drinking and entertainment. The fees often end up being more than the customer can pay. This leads to disputes or even fights, which sometimes spill out onto the streets.”
There have also been several incidents in which prostitutes have pulled elderly men into dark alleys and robbed them.
“Compared with the contemptible actions of some of these newer girls, the older set of sex workers who stood in a fixed spot waiting for customers to approach them tended to be more honest and discreet,” Pan said.
Local business associations have started self-regulating to stop la ke practices and pledged that their employees will not harass pedestrians, but Pan said there are still a dozen “bad apples” who allow their hostesses to hustle aggressively or pull customers from the street.
“Our business association collaborated with police units to increase police presence on the streets last year, but the problem persists. Now, we think that strong enforcement efforts by the authorities are necessary, such as heavy fines for offending businesses. This is the only way to clamp down on the problem,” he added.
An officer at the Wanhua District Police Station said that a specific patrol program to combat the la ke problem is already in place.
“Data from this year up to this month show that we have questioned 78 people in 19 neighborhoods. However, we still plan to enhance patrols to carry out major crackdowns in these areas,” the officer said.