hot new import: Chinese sex slaves
KUALA LUMPUR - They are
confined in luxury condominiums to satisfy a select club
of the rich and old in Malaysia, who visit them
regularly in late afternoons. These "noon brides" are
visited by patrons who wine, dine and have sex with
them, before going home to their families.
many of the women are confined, often against their
will, and "shared" among a select club of like-minded
rich businessmen, officials and activists report.
The "noon bride" phenomenon is only one
dimension of the burgeoning trade in young women from
southern China down to Malaysia. Many of them, hailing
from rural areas in China, are lured on the pretext of
working as office staff, nurses and interpreters.
"When I refused to work as a prostitute I was
slapped, kicked and spat upon," said a woman identified
only as 22-year-old Lin, whose story and that of her
23-year-old colleague Wern was published in local media
"The man told me if I didn't work, I
would be starved to death and never return to China,"
Lin told reporters. Police had rescued her after she
tried to climb down from the 27th floor of a luxury
hotel where she had been forced to do sex work.
Wern, who hails from Guangdong province, escaped
with a help of a friendly customer, found her way to the
office of a support group. She had been kicked, slapped
and burned with cigarette butts to make her have sex
"Cases of forced prostitution are
becoming common - we had 170 such complaints last year,
and in June alone there were 24 cases," Michael Chong,
head of the public complaints bureau of the Malaysian
Chinese Association, said in an interview.
is so popular that kind-hearted taxi drivers who
transport the Chinese women from one customer to another
also give them his contact numbers. It is not unusual
for Chinese girls to flee suddenly, take a cab and head
for Chong's office in central Kuala Lumpur.
"Previously the trade was in girls from
Thailand, but now it is mostly from China," Chong said.
In May, police raided 1,740 nightspots in the
major cities and towns as part of a cleanup campaign. In
every one of the raids, they found Chinese women
outnumbering Malaysians and other nationalities working
in the clubs, most of which are thinly disguised fronts
Activists say some girls from
China, held captive in rundown budget hotels, are forced
to service up do a dozen customers a day.
and after police stepped up pressure against trafficking
groups, syndicate members have turned to transporting
the women from one home to another using cellular phones
in what the media have dubbed "home delivery".
Researchers say a combination of factors -
customer preference, poverty and dislocation in southern
China, and a false perception that there is a lesser
danger of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus, which can
cause AIDS) infection from Chinese women - are reasons
behind the "noon brides" phenomenon.
Fernandez, director of Tenaganita, a leading women's
support group, says there is a wider backdrop against
this - the tremendous expansion in trade, business,
education and tourism links between Malaysia and China
in recent years.
"The Chinese here and those in
China have traditional cultural links but these have
been expanded tremendously in the last decade," she said
in an interview. "There is a keen interest here in
everything China, including in young Chinese women.
Human traffickers are just exploiting the links and
"The girls are lured here with
promises of well-paid jobs - sometimes a syndicate
offers up to US$1,000 when in China they earn less than
$50 a month," Fernandez said. She added that the promise
of high pay is difficult to ignore, especially when the
girls know that there is a large community of Chinese in
Malaysia who have struck it rich.
Malaysian streets paved in gold are completely false,
but are widely believed by many foreigners who are only
shown the gleaming Petronas Twin Towers but not the
slums hidden behind the glamour," Fernandez said.
Government figures for 2002 show that 5,600
foreigners were deported for involvement in the sex
trade, and among them, Chinese women were the
second-largest group. There were 2,155 Indonesians,
1,230 Chinese, 946 Thais, 298 Vietnamese, 189 Filipinos,
138 Uzbeks and 125 Cambodians.
But these numbers
do not reflect the true extent of the problem. Chong
said syndicates based in Hong Kong and mainland China
place advertisements in Chinese newspapers to lure the
women, and provide them cash for daily expenses, airline
tickets and hotel accommodation.
"Once here, the
local syndicate takes over. They seize their passports
and tell them to work as prostitutes to repay the
expanses that are arbitrarily inflated to huge sums
impossible to be repaid. It can be a lifetime trap,"
But some businessmen argue that
their relationships with the women are mutually
"They are young, slim, soft-spoken
and so well mannered. I have had three China 'noon
brides' in the last five years," said a 57-year-old
businessman who made a fortune selling motorcycle parts
in Klang, an industrial town about 30 kilometers north
of the capital.
The businessman, who did not want
to reveal his name, said Malaysian-Chinese businessmen
used to keep mistresses in Singapore, Thailand and Hong
Kong. But the trend now is to buy "noon brides" from
middlemen in China, Hong Kong and here, fly them over
and house them in condominiums.
"It is cheaper
and a lot more convenient," he said. "Noon brides are
extremely popular. Just go to any upscale restaurant in
the city and you can see an old man cloistered with a
young, slim girl from China."
The women, he
says, mostly enter as English-language students and make
enough money in three years to return home rich. "Some
have married and settle down here," he added.
Chinese students, numbering 10,640 last year,
form the largest contingent of the 32,000 foreign
students in Malaysia, which aims to be a regional
education hub. This month, the government announced
plans to set up regional recruitment offices in Chinese
cities and double the intake of foreign students this
and next year (see Malaysia's school daze, June 26.
Experts say traffickers are already exploiting
these policies. They are bringing in "students" from
China, paying their college fees and collecting their
student identification cards before distributing them to
restaurants, hotels and brothels.
"I was hired
as an English lecturer and on arriving at the college
found empty classrooms," said a lecturer who realized
the link between trafficking and the women's enrollment
as students. "The college told me to hang around,
collect my wage and not to worry."