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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.This exceptional class of Chinese residents here in Hong Kong consists principally of the women known in Hong Kong by the popular nickname "ham-shui-mui" (lit.salt water girls), applied to these members of the so-called Tan-ka or boat population, the Pariahs of Cantonese society. 1730) allowed them to settle in villages in the immediate proximity of the river, but they were left by him, and remain to the present day excluded from competition for official honours, whilst custom forbids them to intermarry with the rest of the people.But in 1932, the Hong Kong government issued a ban on prostitution and three years later licensed prostitution ended.From that time on, prostitution was permitted within strict limits while prohibiting a whole host of activities surrounding prostitution, such as soliciting for sex and living off "immoral earnings" (working as a pimp).The Tanka prostitutes were considered to be "low class", greedy for money, arrogant, and treating clients with a bad attitude, they were known for punching their clients or mocking them by calling them names.The stereotype among most Chinese in Canton that all Tanka women were prostitutes was common, leading the government during the Republican era to accidentally inflate the number of prostitutes when counting, due to all Tanka women being included.
The two forms of social life have exercised a certain influence upon each other, but the result now visible is, that while Chinese social life has remained exactly what it is on the mainland of China, the social life of many foreigners in Hong Kong has comparatively degenerated, and not only accommodated itself in certain respects to habits peculiar to the system of •patriarchalism, but caused a certain disrespectable but small class of Chinese to enter into a social alliance with foreigners, which, while detaching them from the restraining influence of the custom and public opinion of Chinese society, left them uninfluenced by the moral powers of foreign civilisation.Tanka women who worked as prostitutes for foreigners also commonly kept a "nursery" Tanka girls specifically for exporting them for prostitution work to overseas Chinese communities such as in Australia or America, or to serve as a Chinese or foreigner's concubine.A report called "Correspondence respecting the alleged existence of Chinese slavery in Hong Kong: presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty" was presented to the English Parliament in 1882 concerning the existence of slavery in Hong Kong, of which many were Tanka girls serving as prostitutes or mistresses to westerners.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.
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