Prostitution in Hong Kong is itself legal, but organised prostitution is illegal, as there are laws against keeping a vice establishment, causing or procuring another to be a prostitute, living on the prostitution of others, or public solicitation.The most visible public venues for sex workers in Hong Kong, especially for tourists, are massage parlours and the so-called "Japanese style night clubs".
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Although organised prostitution is illegal, the industry had always been under the influence of triads to recruit economically disadvantaged women who otherwise would never enter the profession voluntarily.
Until the 1980s, most Hong Kong underground sex establishments were run by gangsters. The Cantonese name of the street, 擺花 (pai fa) literally means "flower arrangement", possibly because of presence of numerous stalls in the area in the mid-19th century, selling flowers From 1884 to 1887 many brothels were declared by the Government to be unlicensed and closed down.
Consequently, almost every "protected woman keeps a nursery of purchased children or a few servant girls who are being reared with a view to their eventual disposal, according to their personal qualifications, either among foreigners here as kept women, or among Chinese residents as their concubines, or to be sold for export to Singapore, San Francisco, or Australia.
Those protected women, moreover, generally act as protectors each to a few other Tan-ka women who live by sly prostitution.
The latter, again, used to be preyed upon—till quite recently His Excellency Governor Hcnnessy stopped this fiendish practice—by informers paid with Government money, who would first debauch such women and then turn round against them charging them before the magistrate as keepers of unlicensed brothels, in which case a heavy fine would be inflicted, to pay which these women used to sell their own children, or sell themselves into bondage worse than slavery, to the keepers of the brothels licensed by Government.