30th November 2023 – (Hong Kong) In a bid to address the issue of public nuisance caused by street solicitation and harassment in the streets of Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong, law enforcement authorities collaborated with the Immigration Department to carry out a large-scale anti-prostitution operation codenamed “Firewolf.” Over the course of a month, the operation resulted in the arrest of 92 women from both mainland China and Hong Kong. Additionally, the authorities confiscated evidence including HIV test kits and medication used to treat or alleviate symptoms of sexually transmitted infections.
The spokesperson for Tsuen Wan Police District stated that the operation had significantly reduced and improved the situation regarding street prostitution activities. He further urged property owners and landlords to thoroughly understand the background and intended use of potential tenants before renting out their premises. Regular property inspections were also recommended to ensure that the units were not being utilised for illegal activities.
Law enforcement authorities noticed a prevalence of old tenement buildings in the Tsuen Wan area. Some property owners subdivided units into cheap rental accommodations, with monthly rents averaging around HK$2,000 and daily rents around HK$200. These affordable housing arrangements became attractive to sex workers offering their services. Furthermore, the post-pandemic period witnessed an increase in mainland Chinese women, holding multiple-entry permits, engaging in prostitution activities in Tsuen Wan. These individuals, together with local sex workers, actively approached pedestrians and attracted potential clients, causing disturbance among the general public.
According to Hong Kong regulations, engaging in sex work with a Hong Kong identity card is not considered a criminal offence. However, soliciting in public places is illegal and constitutes the offence of “soliciting others for immoral purposes.” Foreign sex workers who engage in prostitution in Hong Kong, regardless of solicitation, commit the offence of “breach of conditions of stay” at the very least. The acts of soliciting by sex workers or inquiring about prices by potential clients not only violate the law but also severely disrupt the lives of residents in the Tsuen Wan area.
Police stated that after careful investigation and intelligence analysis, the “Firewolf Operation” was launched in collaboration with the Immigration Department on November 1. Uniformed officers from the Tsuen Wan Police District, along with the New Territories South Regional Tactical Unit, conducted high-profile patrols in known prostitution hotspots such as Yeung Uk Road Market. They strengthened efforts to intercept, question, and search suspicious individuals. Wong Cheuk-to explained that the Yeung Uk Road Market area attracted significant footfall and had convenient transportation, making it an attractive location for sex workers to rent rooms for their activities.
In addition, police conducted multiple undercover operations targeting street prostitution activities and suspected venues where individuals with multiple-entry permits were believed to be offering sexual services. These operations involved deploying officers to gather evidence and subsequently collaborating with the Immigration Department for several anti-prostitution actions.
As of 30th November, a total of 92 local and mainland Chinese women, aged between 21 and 63, had been arrested by the police. The charges against them included “soliciting others for immoral purposes,” “breach of conditions of stay,” “operating a brothel,” and “operating an unlicensed massage establishment.” Some of the convicted individuals have already received prison sentences ranging from 6 to 12 months.