2017-08-15 08:02:33

Liang Yaohui, a former member of the National People’s Congress, has been sentenced to life in prison for “organizing prostitution” three years after the government announced a crackdown on the trade in Dongguan, once China’s unofficial sex capital, Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper reported Tuesday.

Liang owns a five-star hotel that for a decade provided sex services in Dongguan, in south China’s Guangdong province. He was also convicted of bribery and “bid rigging,” or tampering to ensure preferential consideration for lucrative government contracts.

According to the terms of the verdict, which the Dongguan Intermediate People’s Court announced on Friday but did not issue in writing until Tuesday, Liang will spend the rest of his life in jail and have all of his properties seized.

In addition to Liang, another 46 defendants were convicted of organizing prostitution, assisting in organizing prostitution, or assisting in destroying evidence. Only three received suspended sentences — meaning that in the absence of any further infractions, they will not serve jail time — while the rest were sentenced to at least 16 months.

It remains unknown whether the defendants will appeal the decision to a higher court.

Liang’s case is particularly notable because it so closely coincides with the government-initiated campaign to eliminate the city’s sex trade. In February 2014, state broadcaster CCTV exposed Liang’s luxury hotel, the Crown Prince Hotel Dongguan, as having been the base of a large-scale prostitution ring that included underage girls since 2004. Later the same day, the local government announced the crackdown.

The hotel had established an orderly system for its sex trade. The sex workers — officially “spa technicians” — had to pass physical examinations and be properly trained. Their service fees ranged from 600 to 1,500 yuan ($90 to $225), depending on their appearance. The hotel’s 99 rooms available to clients ranged from 238 to 668 yuan per night.

According to the prosecution, the hotel’s total illegal revenue in 2013 was more than 48 million yuan, much of that coming from some 100,000 instances of paid sex. However, after media broke the story, two trunkloads of receipts were destroyed by hotel employees.

During the trial, Liang said that he owned dozens of businesses and had little time to manage the affairs of the Crown Prince. He maintains he had no idea the hotel was involved in prostitution until media broke the story.

Liang also has an impressive political résumé. In 2008, he was elected at just over 40 years of age to the Guangdong Provincial People’s Congress, and in 2012 he ascended to the National People’s Congress.

According to its 2014 annual report, the Dongguan Intermediate People’s Court said that police investigated more than 450 cases of sex work that year, resulting in the detention of at least 1,000 suspects, over 600 of whom were prosecuted. In addition, more than 30 government officials — including a vice mayor — were found to bear some degree of legal responsibility for sex crimes, and at least 36 police officers were charged for their role as “protective umbrellas” over the trade.

Editor: David Paulk.

(Header image: A woman takes a photo of Liang Yaohui in Shanghai, Aug. 15, 2017. Shi Yangkun/Sixth Tone)