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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Sex and the city forbidden, but let the Games begin

Monday, Aug 04, 2008 4:41AM UTC

By Paul Majendie and Ben Blanchard

LONDON (Reuters) - Whatever happened to the Mongolian prostitutes? Where have all the "money boys" gone?

Looking for a high-class hooker in the lobby of a five-star hotel? It could be a tough assignment.

Anyone hoping for some readily available sex-for-sale in Beijing during the Olympics may be in for a shock. China is clearly keen to portray a squeaky clean image at the Summer Games and picture postcard Beijing is a top priority.

Prostitution is illegal in China. Banished after the Communist revolution in 1949, it returned with a vengeance in the 1980s when the country embarked upon economic reforms and started opening to the outside world.

For prostitutes and pole dancers alike, pickings now are slim. They cannot wait for the Olympics to end.

Climbing down from her pole in a sparsely populated bar in Beijing's Sanlitun area, 22-year-old Yang Shuo sighed.

"Business is OK but it could be better," she said. "It's the Olympics, you know. Police are cracking down on places like this."

Looking out on a tacky bar filled with a handful of customers, she said: "I am looking forward to the Olympics finishing."

For the oldest profession in the world, drumming up clients at the Olympics is hard work.

"Business is terrible," confessed one prostitute as she strode up to a passing westerner in a downtown Beijing street offering "Sex, Sex, Sex".

"We have been thrown out of the hotels," said the woman in her mid-30s, wearing a low-strung orange top. "We have to do our business on the streets and cut our prices."


She normally charges 600 yuan (45 pounds) for three hours. The special Olympic price is now down to 500 yuan.

"I hate the Olympics. We can't wait for them to finish -- then business can return to normal."

The outlook was equally bleak at a bar once notorious as a haunt for picking up Mongolian prostitutes. The guard outside said: "It is closed for renovation. It will not be re-opening until September."

Trying to find out how business was for the money boys -- China's name for gay rent boys -- was not easy. None was prepared to talk unless you paid them first.

The Chinese government has told discos, karaoke bars and other entertainment venues to install windows in private rooms and ensure staff dress modestly in an effort to crack down on prostitution and drugs.

The Ministry of Public Security has decreed that entertainment venues must install transparent partitions between rooms that ensure "the whole environment of the consumer's entertainment area in the room can be seen".

Discos and karaoke bars in China frequently have private rooms for hire and are a favourite place for businessmen to entertain guests, sometimes with prostitutes.

Skimpy outfits were also officially discouraged. Staff members should "dress tastefully and not be too exposing".

(Writing by Paul Majendie; Editing by Nick Macfie)

(For more stories visit our multimedia website "Road to Beijing" at http://www.reuters.com/news/sports/2008olympics; and see our blog at http://blogs.reuters.com/china)

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