The sex industry in China has grown rapidly over the last two decades and there are now an estimated four to six million sex workers in the country. However, they are all too often demonised by society as immoral and diseased. They are abused by clients and police alike and subject to arbitrary fines and detention for up to two years.
As several hundred migrants from Anhui staged a protest in Beijing on 8 May demanding a proper investigation into the suspicious death of a young migrant at a local market, police descended in force and helicopters circled above to make sure the protest did not get out of hand. Front page photograph of a now demolished migrant community in Beijing.
Ten years ago, a young migrant worker, Sun Zhigang, was brutally beaten to death whilst in police custody in Guangzhou. When the incident was reported by the Southern Metropolitan Daily at the end of April 2003, it caused a national outrage and mounting public pressure forced the newly installed government in Beijing to quickly dismantle regulations controlling the movement of migrant workers in an attempt to prevent a similar tragedy in the future.
He Junling, who was sentenced to seven weeks in jail by a Singapore court last month for inciting Chinese bus drivers to go on strike for higher pay and better living conditions, was deported back to China on 31 March.
“If leaving, remitting, and returning are the three key words that define the old generation, then leaving, searching, and becoming are the main themes for the new generation.” Jennifer Cheung talks to the new generation of factory girls in China. Photograph courtesy of the Sunflower Centre in Guangzhou.