Jaffe Road is a major thoroughfare in Hong Kong's Wan Chai area known for its nightclubs. Photo: Wpcpey/WikiMedia
Jaffe Road is a major thoroughfare in Hong Kong's Wan Chai area known for its nightclubs. Photo: Wpcpey/WikiMedia

Plainclothes officers of the Hong Kong Police Force have smashed what they say was a vice establishment operating under the cloak of a high-end private club in Wan Chai, an area known among many foreign revelers as the city’s bar and red-light district.

In a coordinated raid coded “Thunderbolt 18” on Wednesday evening, officers disguised as pleasure seekers visited the club and were greeted by a group of scantily clad, enthusiastic bargirls who hinted after gulping down drinks with their customers that they could offer sex services.

Officers from the Wan Chai Police Station’s Organized Crime and Triad Bureau as well as the Special Duties Squad soon launched a swoop, and they found that besides allegedly acting as a clandestine brothel, the club charged exorbitant prices for alcohol and food.

The city’s Oriental Daily reported that on a hefty HK$90,000 (US$11,465) receipt the police found inside the lavishly decorated venue on Wan Chai’s Jaffe Road, a scotch whisky was sold with a fat markup of nearly HK$20,000 from its market price of around HK$2,680, and a seafood platter came with a whopping HK$24,000 price tag, among others.

The police arrested the manager of the club, a 42-year-old local man, and his 33-year-old assistant from Thailand, for allegedly managing a vice establishment, along with 14 non-local women aged between 29 and 45 who hailed from mainland China, Taiwan and Indonesia for contravening their conditions of stay.

The police are now investigating whether the arrestees had triad backgrounds.

Women wait outside a nightclub in Wan Chai, Hong Kong’s red-light district. Photo: International Coalition Against Human Trafficking

Lured by high pay, many of the women who go to Hong Kong as tourists or maids join vice syndicates in violation of their entry permits and even overstay their visas. Nonetheless, prostitution is not illegal in Hong Kong and sex workers are not the targets of police crackdowns unless they are involved in other offenses.

Meanwhile, a separate police bust targeting seven unlicensed massage parlors in Hong Kong’s Yuen Long area saw the arrest of 46 local and mainland women and girls, the youngest only 15 years old.

Police say the anti-vice operation on Thursday also found heaps of cash, condoms and other contraceptive tools. An initial investigation indicated that two triad societies controlled massage parlors that were used as vice venues.