New Paper’s exposé on Chinese rentboys in Chinatown

Source: The New Paper
21 September 2008

‘They make place look so sleazy’
Shop owners upset with China boys offering uncles special massages even in broad daylight

By Hedy Khoo

Men who are part of the group which hangs around outside Lucky Chinatown offering massage services to men.

Clean-cut, good-looking, toned bodies in tight-fitting T-shirts, and they sport trendy hairstyles.

But their runway is the pavements around Lucky Chinatown shopping centre.

It is there that these Chinese nationals, in their mid-20s, tout massage services to male passers-by.

They show up daily as early as 11am till about 8pm, loitering around the entrance or at the fast-food centre there, shop owners pointed out.

The moment the deal is agreed, they would offer to take the customer to either a rented room nearby or check into a hotel.

Shop owners in the area say they have noticed the presence of these young men since late last year. They are unhappy that nothing has been done to stop these ‘masseurs’.

One shop owner, who did not want to be named, said the presence of the young men made him uncomfortable.

‘Some of them even wait inside the building. I avoid going to the toilet unnecessarily, because whenever I walk past them, they would smile at me in a suggestive manner,’ he said. Click to see larger image ALARMED: This man left his seat when alerted by others who shouted to him to run away when they realised they were being photographed. He later scolded The New Paper on Sunday photojournalist.

Photo: THEY can pass off as male models.

They can pass off as male models

The New Paper

‘The people who work here know what these young men are here for.

‘They are spoiling the image of this area, making it look so sleazy even during the day.’

Some workers in the area were also disturbed by how the men would blatantly solicit for business from passers-by in the area.

One of them was so upset that he called The New Paper Hotline.

Mr Mogan, a shipping consultant who works in the area, said he was approached by one of the men.

‘I notice they smile at middle-aged men walking past. One of them even approached me and said, ‘Massage, massage, $200′.’

Mr Mogan, who is in his 40s, claimed that he also heard them saying that to other men.

‘I feel very uncomfortable every time I walk by because I can feel them staring at me,’ he added. Click to see larger image

‘This is a tourist area. They shouldn’t be soliciting here. It spoils the image of our city,’ he said.

The men are apparently fly-by-night operators who come to Singapore on social visit passes to try to solicit men for massage and ‘special services’. Many would disappear after a couple of weeks.

However, shop owners said that the men have started to reappear in greater numbers since July.

One shop assistant at the shopping centre said: ‘At the start of this year, there were only one to three of them. Then in July, their numbers swelled to 10.

‘I’m not sure if they all belong to the same group, but they seem to know one another.’

A shop assistant, who wanted to be known only as Miss Pui, 24, has been working in the building for three months. She said: ‘They hang around outside our shop at the lift lobby area or outside the entrance.

‘I’ve seen them approach middle-aged women occasionally, but most of the time, it’s middle-aged men or even the Ah Peks.’

Miss Pui said that, at times, they would even enter her shop to ask for help.

‘They would show me their SMS messages on their handphones, which is usually an address in English, and ask me how to read it and where the location is. They would say they don’t understand English,’ she said.

Miss Pui said she was unfazed by the presence of the men.

‘Opposite at People’s Park where I used to work, there were quite a number of China women offering special services. Over here, it’s China men.

‘They don’t interfere with our business, we don’t interfere with theirs.’

But Miss Pui revealed that upstairs on the second storey, there were also two nail parlours run by women which apparently catered only to men.

‘Some of my male friends have been frightened off because they were approached by the men when they entered the building.

‘Then when they went upstairs, they were approached by the nail parlour girls for massages and ‘special services’.’

At least one shop owner on the second floor was upset with the goings-on in and outside the building.

She declined to be named, but said she was considering moving out.

‘There are too many strange characters around here… and it makes the area look seedy.

‘It affects my business because my female customers feel uncomfortable. Several have complained to me that their husbands were shocked when approached by the young men for massages and extra services.’

Increased security patrols

A spokesman for Lucky Chinatown said it takes ‘a very serious view of the situation’.

‘We have been in close touch with the police.

‘On our part, we have already increased security patrols and, going forward, we are also increasing the security manpower.’

A police spokesman said they are aware of the situation in and around the Lucky Chinatown area, and conduct regular enforcement operations in the area.

Prostitution is not an offence under Singapore’s laws. But soliciting is an offence under the Miscellaneous Offences Act.

Under Section 19 of the Miscellaneous Offence (Public Order and Nuisance) Act, any person who persistently loiters or solicits for the purpose of prostitution in a public place can, if found guilty, be fined up to $1,000.

Subsequent offences mean a fine of up to $2,000 or jail time of up to six months or both.

The police spokesman said that many countries adopt a similar approach.

* * *

SIDEBAR:

They are flirty , physical and persistent

A MALE journalist from The New Paper on Sunday posed as a passerby to find out first-hand if the young men outside Lucky Chinatown were indeed touting special services, and how they did it.

His verdict: They were flirtatious, physical and pesky. And they did not take no for an answer, persisting in their offers for a pricey massage.

When our team visited the building on Wednesday at about 5pm, there were two or three of the young men hanging around the entrance.

Shortly after 6pm, another 10 arrived in a group.

They split up into groups of two or three, or stood around on their own.

They did not pay attention to women but would smile at men walking past and try to approach them, including The New Paper on Sunday’s journalist.

He had barely stepped out of the fast-food restaurant near the building entrance when he was approached by one of the men, who appeared to be in his mid-20s.

The man smiled and asked politely in Mandarin: ‘Do you want a massage?’

When asked if there were any other services besides a massage, the man replied: ‘Any service that you want is all included at $180 for about an hour.’

‘First customer’

The soft-spoken man, who was carrying a satchel, introduced himself as Sam and said he was from Shanghai.

He also said: ‘Lao xiong (brother, in Mandarin), please give me a chance. It’s my first time here, and you will be my first customer.’

He even gave assurances that it was safe and that they could go to a room he rented nearby for the services.

But when told of the worry of being caught, the man said they could go to a nearby hotel but the room charges were not included in his fee.

The man lowered his offer to $150, and again to $130 when his advances were rejected.

He was bent on cutting a deal and refused to back down.

As the journalist started to walk away, the man wouldn’t give up.

He followed him and tugged at his shirt sleeve.

He let go after about 50m, when the journalist stopped talking to him.

Even then, the man called after him loudly: ‘Lao xiong, lao xiong…’

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