To protest China’s treatment of prostitutes, activist becomes one

Immersion journalism taken to a new level (or depth)

John Dyer By John Dyer

Prostitutes in China wait for customers in a shopping mall. (Reuters/Bobby Yip)

Another Saturday, another look at stories from around the world that show how folks abroad are tackling issues Americans also confront.

The late, great American writer George Plimpton made participatory journalism famous in the United States by tossing the pigskin around with the Detroit Lions and going a few rounds in the ring with boxing champ Archie Moore. Asked why he subjected himself to the blows of linebackers and pugilists, he said the reporting helped him convey the reality of professional sports to readers.

Chinese activist and writer Ye Haiyan, 37, has taken that approach to a whole new level.

As part of a project to expose the mistreatment of prostitutes in China, Haiyan worked as a prostitute herself for a day in the Ten Yuan Brothel in Wuhan in the country’s south central region, reports the Shanghaiist news website. She didn’t accept money for the work, so technically she wasn’t prostituting herself. But nonetheless she posted updates on Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter, to describe the experience of women who service men, mostly farmers, for a charge of around $8.

Haiyan isn’t necessarily looking to outlaw prostitution. On the contrary, she wants it legalized so that prostitutes can work with a modicum of safety and avoid the harassment that often occurs in an unregulated industry.

“I will continue my quest for righteousness and consciousness,” she’s quoted as saying in The Star, a Malaysian newspaper. “I want to prove that I’m not a second class citizen by speaking up for sex workers.”

Perhaps Haiyan looks forward to the day when China has rules governing prostitution and brothels like those in Australia. The whole issue isn’t so alien. Nevada has regulated prostitution for years.

Train tippling

Anyone who’s ever taken the commuter train from Manhattan to New Haven knows that the line often features a bar car, a compartment devoted to those who enjoy an after-work tipple.

In Scotland, drinking on trains apparently has gone too far, however, the BBC reports.

ScotRail, a pseudo-public rail operator, has instituted new rules barring drinking on its trains between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., or prime boozing hours. The new rules, which would also ban intoxicated riders from trains, are scheduled to take effect on July 20, the news service said.

Americans who have been on British trains and witnessed fellow passengers — usually blokes — swilling big cans of beer, one after another, know how riding and imbibing might get out of control late at night.

The statistics illustrate: police have dealt with at least 260 alcohol-related incidents since the beginning of the year, and trains are increasingly delayed because of drunkenness, the BBC reports.

Perhaps they need a bar car. With a cage.

Up in flames

Every few years, Americans become exercised over how someone is mistreating Old Glory.

This week, Pakistani newspaper columnist Nadeem Paracha of the Dawn Newspaper wrote a compelling piece on flag burning that highlights the ironies and occasionally the hypocrisies of Pakistanis who torch the Stars and Stripes.

Paracha relates three experiences in his column.

In the first, he describes how in the 1980s he was a member of a college student group that planned to burn an American flag because of Washington’s support of the regime then in power. But another student group intervened in an episode that appears really, really ironic nowadays.

“They said that they would not allow the burning of the American flag because the US was a friendly country that was aiding a jihad against the atheistic Soviets,” writes Paracha.

In the second example from the same era, he and others burn American, Pakistani and Indian flags. During the protest, other students tattle to the university administration for desecrating his country’s symbol. But then he discovers that the people who ratted him out were also guilty of bullying girls on campus in another unrelated episode. The patriot tattlers were just troublemakers.

Lastly, two years ago, Paracha and a friend get into a debate with a guy burning the American flag in Karachi. Thing is, the guy is protesting against the Taliban and doesn’t see the contradiction of burning the American flag to protest against Islamic terrorism. The guy’s a numbskull.

Paracha’s lesson? Burning a piece of cloth in public is neither a way to change the world nor something to become too exercised about.

  • Latitude News

    Quick note, the Shanghaiist mentions 10-20 RMB for services rendered. $8 would be about 50 RMB.

  • Yossarian

    The piece by “Hooligan Sparrow” on Chinese sex workers was interesting in that it seems likely that one of most difficult forces aligned against any legitimization/regulation of prostitution would certainly be the local constabulary and their “undercover stings” and 3,000 RMB fines they levy on these women. Sounds like racketeering to me. Once the police have their hooks into someone I can’t imagine these women having much of a chance.
    I can imagine exactly when in the “undercover sting” transaction that the police reveal their identity.