BEIJING, Feb. 12 (Xinhua) -- Recent media exposure and the ensuing police crackdown on prostitution in south China's Dongguan raised an uproar of support, ironically, for sex workers, not for the campaign.
It is an open secret that for years, Dongguan has been the "capital of sex" in China. Prostitution was outlawed in 1949 but has re-emerged since the reform drive of the 1980s.
While underground prostitution in other cities certainly exists, it is not the booming industry of Dongguan.
Widely rumored protection from local police is believed to be a major reason behind the industry, and the public is tolerant of the trade, as demonstrated by opposition to the Dongguan crackdown.
There have been calls that the ban on prostitution should be lifted.
The society is obviously facing more complicated challenges than six decades ago when the "social vice" was targeted in the 1950s, a few years after the founding of New China, to liberate"oppressed" women.
One concern is the local governments' ambivalence to the sex trade, which, in the case of Dongguan, is believed to be a substantial contributor to the city's economy and employment.
This partly explains how the sex trade remained safe in Dongguan, despite previous crackdowns.
To avoid a new round of the catch-and-release game, the current crackdown needs a heavy and decisive blow: a blow to business owners and operators, and the umbrellas above them.
However, a problem out of the heavy blow's avail is the public's attitude toward prostitution, especially that of young people who were born after 1980 and are major supporters of lifting the ban on prostitution.
Widespread sympathy toward sex workers in the Dongguan crackdown and calls for the legalization of prostitution in the cyber and social networking communities is an example of erosion of values by commercial waves.
The supporters believe that prostitution should be allowed as long as there are "market demands."
Considering such complicated social backdrop, the mission against prostitution will not be accomplished in one action, but authorities have to show their resolve.
As some netizens put it, in the fight against sex trade, the government can win as long as it is determined to.
Sex industry is always referred to as "yellow" in the Chinese language. As the whole country seeks a green approach for sustainable development, "sweeping yellow," or a crackdown on sex trade, seems to have become inevitable.