Chinese trafficked sex workers refuse rescue from Congo

Like the Bangladeshi women who had been working at an Indian brothel and were reportedly rescued by police but later rioted at the shelter where they had been sent, some Chinese migrants in Congo have resisted rescue. It is good to hear that they were not forced to be deported or put in a shelter and interesting that a mainstream media source like Time should find sex worker resistance newsworthy, perhaps because of the public monies spent to carry out the raid. Chinese police flew all the way from Sichuan to Congo to go to a karaoke bar . . .

Note that the migrants are said to have wanted to go to Paris but have made do successfully with Kinshasa.

Chinese prostitutes resist effort to rescue them from Africa

1 Jan 2011,  Sapa-dpa,

Eleven Chinese women lured into prostitution in Africa have refused to be rescued after being tracked down by police from their home country, a news report said Saturday. Police from China flew to the Democratic Republic of Congo in November in the country’s first operation to rescue women trafficked to Africa, according to the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post. They found 11 Chinese women who had been promised decent jobs in Paris by traffickers but ended up working in a Chinese-owned karaoke bar in the country’s capital Kinshasa, the newspaper said.

After a joint raid by Chinese and Congolese police on the karaoke bar, however, the women decided to stay in the country, saying it was easier to make good money there than in China. Chinese police official Yin Guohai told the newspaper, “They make 100 US dollars for receiving one guest – half of the money goes to their boss and they keep the other half.” As well as prostitution, the women, mostly from China’s underdeveloped Sichuan province, were able to take cheap goods from China to Africa after visits home and sell them for big profits, Yin said.

An estimated 5,000 to 6,000 Chinese people, many of them traders or businessmen involved in the mining industries, live in the Congolese capital Kinshasa.

–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist

10 thoughts on “Chinese trafficked sex workers refuse rescue from Congo

  1. laura agustin Post author

    It’s quite common for migrants to engage in multiple money-earning occupations, whether one of them is selling sex or not. And suitcase trading, as it’s often known, is very common amongst sex workers. The point is that calling them ‘trafficked’ makes their situation sound monolithic and enslaved, but you see from the story that they wanted to migrate and adapted to the place they wound up.

  2. Bradley Gardner

    Oh right, I misread. I was thinking of the developing to developed world trafficking where women are strictly controlled once they are grabbed. I imagine a Chinese woman on the streets of Kinshasa would have a hard time doing anything without her Chinese contacts, and a Chinese Karaoke bar girl is a fairly different job from a regular prostitute. (though there is overlap!)

  3. Bradley Gardner

    And now I read the description of your book, where I realize that you’re going to tell me everything I thought I know about trafficking is wrong.


  4. Laura Agustín

    hello bradley. there is no meaningful difference between migration-smuggling-trafficking to developed countries and less developed. in fact, my remarks specially apply to migrants to europe and their transnational business dealings.

    you will find if you look around this website that i don’t make the distinction you are assuming between a karaoke-bar girl and a prostitute, all the boundaries are fuzzy and one can find happiness and unhappiness everywhere.

    there are some other china stories on the site if you are interested, try the search engine.

    best, laura

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