Sex and the Chinese Bloggers

At the Beijing Bookworm panel on Internet publishing, both myself and Jeremy Goldkorn (Danwei) spoke of the most popular subject on our blogs.  One word: SEX.  This occasion has been reported by IDG News Service's Steven Schwankert in Google, sex keys to blogging success in China.

At first blush, that would seem astonishing to anyone familar with our blogs.  We are not explicity sex bloggers.  After all, at Danwei, the current banner running across the top is a party slogan ("Operating a website in a civilized way.").

So how did it happened that the largest traffic drivers to our sites are sex-related?

First of all, if you type in "SEX" in Google/Yahoo/MSN, this site will probably be ranked at 1,942,932 or something like that.  The keyword SEX is just not relevant to the site content as a whole.  Rather, it is the obscure sex-related keywords that may be negligible in the overall context of "SEX" but still enough to overwhelm small 'civilized sites' like ours.  In the case of Danwei, it appears that the site has a stranglehold on 'trans-sexuals' in China.  But that will be a story for Jeremy to tell.

In the case of this site, the single most popular Google keyword in the history of this website is 'sex141.'

Huh?

That was my reaction too when I saw that.

Here is the most typical scenario that I believe to be true.

Suppose you arrive in Hong Kong for a vacation, and you are looking for companionship.  You get on the Internet, you browse around and you will probably land at sex141.com eventually.  This is a database of gals in various districts of Hong Kong, including their nicknames (usually Meimei, Bobo or Fongfong), photographs, addresses, prices and specialties.  By all means, click through on that site and see what it looks like.

Let us say that you are interested.  But you are worried.  If you go there, knock on the door, see the girl, agree on the price and take off your clothes, will six men armed with machetes charge through the door and rob you?  Yes, you need an independent review.  So you get on Google, you punch in sex141 and one of the top listings is this ESWN page.

This is the only reason why I get all the additional traffic related to sex141.  I have no connection to sex141.com otherwise.

Now what was my page about?  It was posted on October 5, 2005 and concerns the trial of two individuals related to the sex141.com operation.  The two men were eventually sentenced to one year in jail apiece.  Although the page was written almost a year ago, it continues to yield more visits every day.

Now I would have liked to think that I am performing a public service.  People with immoral purposes in mind came to my website for a final verificaiton before plunging into the moral abyss, but I showed that crime does not pay.  In so doing, I have saved many people who have lost their moral compass (that is, they no longer know where east, south, west or north are).

Unfortunately, this is misleading because that is not how Hong Kong law works.

In Hong Kong law, the customer and the prostitute are not committing any crimes in this circumstance.  If a man shows up at an apartment, knocks on the door, enters, engage in a transaction and then offers a monetary gift to his newfound friend afterwards, there is no crime.

A crime would be committed only if there are any other external circumstances.

For example, if the female is a mainlander who came here on a tourist visa, then she would be violating the conditions of her visa by working to earning money.  But the customer walks.

As another example, the female was actually soliciting the customer in a public space (such as a street corner or even the balcony of her building), she would be guilty of creating a public nuisance.  However, in the sex141.com situtations, the females are carefully staying in a single-occupancy apartments, so this does not apply either.

A further example is the female employing a neon sign outside the building to advertise her service.  The police can come and remove the sign as being a public nuisance (even though they do not arrest the female because they would have to prove that she put up the sign).  There is a triad-dominated industry in the Mongkok district for emergency neon sign replacement -- if the police remove your sign, the sign shop guarantees that you will have a new neon sign up and running in less than 12 hours!  This is a triad-dominated industry in the sense that there are only three such shops and anyone who moves in will be persuaded not to.

According to this Pandemonium post,  

In Hong Kong the following acts will be subject to prosecution ( thatís all I could remember ):

1. Controlling a brothel;
2. Letting out a place to be run as brothel;
3. Controlling or managing prostitution activities;
4. Relying on prostitute for income ( ma-fu ).

And concerning the above offence, the burden to discharge liability is on the accused once the prosecution could establish prima facie case against the accused. The accused could not rely on the right of silence throughout the whole trial. In other words, he has to speak and defend himself.

So in this sex141.com case, the two men can be assumed that they know that they were profiting from the work of the prostitutes.  Thus, they were found guilty and sent to jail.  Since then, sex141.com is doing nicely, having relocated its server to the United States and therefore beyond the reach of Hong Kong law enforcement.  Of course, the patrons are not guilty of any criminal activities.  Nevertheless, they will still need a field staff to visit the females, take pictures, collect money, etc, and the field workers are the ones who are exposed to the long arm of the law.

That was a five-minute debriefing of Hong Kong law.  Now we go back to our regular program of a civilized website ...