BEIJING, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- As China's anti-graft war picks up momentum, a nationwide crackdown on the sex trade has become a key part of the nation's efforts to root out entrenched corruption.
The campaign is targeted at uncovering the corruptive forces who have protected or connived with this underground industry that continues to run wild despite repeated attempts at containment.
Police were asked to focus on seizing organizers, operators and the "protective umbrella" of the sex trade and seriously punish police leaders and staff found to be guilty of involvement.
Officials' acquiescence and police protection, the so-called "protective umbrella," are widely believed to have allowed the industry to boom.
By Monday evening, police working on the prostitution crackdown had apprehended 501 suspects and busted 73 gangs nationwide. More than 1,300 cases of organizing or soliciting sex services have been opened and 2,410 venues shut down.
The clampdown quickly went national, following police raids on Feb. 9 in south China's Dongguan just a few hours after media exposure.
In the Dongguan case, Yan Xiaokang, vice mayor of Dongguan and head of the city's Public Security Bureau, was removed from his post for dereliction of duty last Friday. Local deputy police head Lu Weiqi and several other officials were also sacked.
In addition, a number of people affiliated to the government were exposed as engaged in the sex trade. State television reported that Liang Yaohui, a deputy to the national legislature, runs a five-star hotel involved in prostitution.
Prostitution is regarded as immoral in China and is bound to involve social corruption, organized crimes, abduction and trafficking of women, violence and gangs.
However, local governments are ambivalent toward the sex trade, which, in the case of Dongguan, is believed to be a substantial contributor to the city's economy and employment.
Usually a hotbed for corruption has been bred as a consequence of this compromise by local government and consequent bribery and collusion by officials and businessmen.
Since China's new leadership assumed office last year, the corruption fight has always remained one of its top tasks.
Addressing a disciplinary meeting in January, Chinese President Xi Jinping described corruption as "a disease that calls for powerful drugs." He reiterated zero tolerance of graft and promised to seriously punish every corrupt official.
There has been some criticism of China's sex trade crackdown. However, with the deepening of the campaign and the capture of more corrupt figures, such voices will surely weaken.