Inside Chinese Brothels Where Burmese Women are Exploited to Entertain Businessmen

An Italian photographer spent two months in China investigating a thriving prostitution industry where Burmese women are forced by gangs to entertain rich businessmen

Despite the Chinese government’s supposedly aggressive crackdown on the “flesh” trade, prostitution has continued to proliferate in the country by simply hiding in plain sight. In many cases, the brothels often take the guise of karaoke bars, massage parlors, spas, and nightclubs.

Offering a candid look inside prostitution houses in the southern part of China, photographer Paolo Marchetti used his camera lenses to expose China’s seedy underworld.

Chinese and Burmese minors inside a nightclub where they regularly work as prostitutes.
Girls dancing on a stage with customers who then choose the entertainer they prefer.
Club and Karaoke dancers are frequented by businessmen.

In the photos, Marchetti reveals what goes on inside the prostitution dens which continue to feed a demand for many rich Chinese businessmen. Many of these wealthy patrons have made going to brothels a ritual, where male co-workers and business partners spend hours with mostly under-aged women.

17-year-old Mya works as an escort between nightlife and luxurious resorts.
Entertainers in the karaoke room in the Spa”Lux”.
Ms. Hien manages a massage center in the town center. Around 98% of massage centers consume sexual services between customers and the masseuses, according to Marchetti.

Marchetti told Nextshark that he was able to capture the behind-the-scenes activities while working in the districts of brothels in Ruili, Yunnan Province for two months. He was able to take the insightful photos undercover with the help of locals.

“I had to wait a lot of days without taking photographs,” he said. “It was a very slow process, and mostly I made my photos without asking permission but trying to figure out when it was possible and when it was better not to pull my camera out of my backpack for all night.”

Inside the hostel called “Three Suns”: As thousands of young migrants from Burma search for a future in flourishing China, the girls are engaged as models by Chinese businessmen, but soon realize they can only work as sex workers in nightclubs, massage centers and hotels.
Inside the hoatel “Three Suns,” 16-year-old Bao, also Burmese, has worked as a prostitute for about three years in China.
An 18-year-old Burmese prostitute inside a room in the Spa “Lux”.

The town of Ruili, which lies closest to the border of Burma, has become a popular destination for the rich businessmen to get “entertained.”

A jade trader and an import-export contractor sit within a luxurious spa in the city center. In China, going to a brothel with a business associate is a “macho” ritual which is difficult to escape. Evenings start in a restaurant and end up in clubs where guests can dance or sing in the Karaoke rooms, in any case always in the company of young girls who will entertain customers for the night.
The jade trader and a import-export contractor within a luxurious spa in the city center.
A team of import-export operators in China stand in a luxury hotel on the outskirts of Ruili. In the background are two entertainers of the establishment.

With the help of his personal fixer, he was able to learn the stories of the women. During his investigation, he met Burmese women, aged 16-24, who were promised jobs but were forced by Chinese gangs into prostitution in nightclubs or massage centers.

 While some of these women were forced to marry Chinese bachelors, most of them are tasked to entertain customers by talking, singing, flirting and performing sexual acts. 

Jade traders within a luxurious spa in the city center.
Here inside a private room, the men are entertained by girls who are mostly Burmese.
The flourishing Ruili has grown dramatically because of the huge traffic of goods of all kinds from Burma, and because of that, the boundaries of the city spread out in the name of development every year. A clothing store where prices are accessible only to the richest is source of the kinds of gifts often offered as alternative forms of payment for young sex workers.

According to China Daily (via The Sun), the number of prostitutes in the country had reached 10 million, between 2000 and 2010. A great number of these are foreigners who, in their attempt to escape poverty and harsh conditions in their homeland, have fallen victim to sex exploitation under the hands of Chinese gangs.

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