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Perceptions of Policing and Security Among Hong Kong Migrant Sex Workers—a Research Note

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  1. Given only two of the participants were male, caution should be taken regarding any conclusions related to gender and sex work here. Nevertheless, both of these participants provided invaluable knowledge and, since their interviews were audio-recorded, their interviews provide a level of rich detail complementing the other hand-written notes for the female participants.

  2. ‘One-woman brothels’ refer to the private apartments of sex workers, about 100 square feet or below, which can be partitioned flats from a larger flat. It is important to stress that all of our participants reported an independent ‘sole proprietorship’ mode of running sex work. None of the participants worked collectively in any vice establishments organized by local triads (i.e. organized crime). No participants expressed that they were coerced to work in the industry. This is not to imply that triad-organized type of brothels do not exist in Hong Kong (they certainly do), nor to imply that most sex workers in Hong Kong work in a ‘one-woman brothel’ mode of business. The ‘sole proprietorship’ mode of work among our sample is likely related to the focus of the NGOs participants were recruited from, which focus on reaching out to ‘independent’ sex workers in Hong Kong. Our participants thus kept all of the revenues or profits from their work.

  3. Potential harm posed from clients was a frequent concern expressed by our female participants. Two participants said they had been robbed by clients once or more at their work place (i.e., one-woman brothel). Police were rarely called upon for investigation, as participants expressed doubt about their ability to help. Clients were reported to sometimes be intoxicated on drugs or alcohol, which sometimes resulted in physical abuse. Clients sometimes insisted on not using condoms, or verbally abused sex workers. Unanimously, participants pointed to support from non-governmental organizations which help to address these risks.


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Funding for this project was provided by a University of Calgary internal ‘seed’ grant (no award number was provided).

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Correspondence to Michael Adorjan.

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Dr. Michael Adorjan declares that he has no conflicts of interest regarding this study.

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In the case of this study, ethical approvals were obtained from both (author’s current institution) and the University of Hong Kong.

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Adorjan, M. Perceptions of Policing and Security Among Hong Kong Migrant Sex Workers—a Research Note. Asian J Criminol 14, 103–111 (2019).

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