This class of people, mustering perhaps here in Hong Kong not more than 2,000 persons, are entirely beyond the argument of this essay.
They are disowned by Chinese society, whilst they are but parasites on foreign society.
The system of buying and selling female children and of domestic servitude with which they must be identified is so glaring an abuse of legitimate Chinese domestic servitude that it calls for corrective measures entirely apart from any considerations connected with the general body of Chinese society.
However, most of the commercial sex worker industry consists of women working in small, usually one room apartments, usually referred to as "one-woman brothels", the equivalent of the "walk-up brothel" in the United Kingdom.
They advertise for clients through the Internet and local classifieds.
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.
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.
Whenever a sly brothel was broken up these keepers would crowd the sheriff's office of the police court or the visiting room to the Government Lock Hospital to drive their heartless bargains, which were invariably enforced with the weighty support of the Inspectors of brothels appointed by Government under the Contagious Diseases Ordinance.
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.
They invaded Hong Kong the moment the Colony was opened, and have ever since maintained here a monopoly, so to say, of the supply of Chinese pilots and ships' crews, of the fish trade, the cattle trade, and especially of the trade in women for the supply of foreigners and of brothels patronised by foreigners. kept mistress of foreigners here, belongs to this Tan-ka tribe, looked down upon and kept at a distance by all the other Chinese classes.