China has brought an end to the use of forced labour as punishment for those prosecuted under anti-sex work laws. Although sex work is still criminalised in the country, national media in China has reported that the detention system came to an end at the end of December 2019, and those in custody will be released.
The detention scheme was introduced more than 20 years ago, and its purpose and efficacy has been questioned by sex worker-led organisations. A 2013 report by Asia Catalyst noted excessive use of force and physical violence from police when detaining female sex workers, and extortion of money and forced confessions during the process.
Shen Tingting, director of Asia Catalyst, told the BBC that "the move to abolish forced labour detention centres is positive but only a small step towards safeguarding the rights of sex workers". She said:
"Chinese law and policies focus on prohibition and cracking down on sex work, rather than providing a framework to ensure the health and safety of sex work as a profession."