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Tue, Nov 06, 2012
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She became a prostitute for a cause
by Maureen Koh

My plan as a 'prostitute'

How far - or how low - would you go to push your cause?

One woman went further than most for what she passionately believes in - she became a "prostitute" to highlight the plight of sex workers and the issue of safe sex.

It's not about courage, insists Chinese activist and blogger Ye Haiyan in a phone interview with The New Paper on Sunday from her Yulin office in Guangxi province. It's about speaking out about what's right.

She speaks in rapid Mandarin, occasionally switching to English, and frequently punctuates her conversation with booming laughter.

Ms Ye, 37, a divorcee with a teenage daughter, declares: "I must be the first person who dares to openly acknowledge that I was a sex worker.

"And yes, there are still many people who think I'm crazy."

Crazy enough, she adds, to volunteer as a "prostitute" for nearly three days, offering free sex for migrant workers in Ten Yuan Brothel, in Wuhan in Hubei province.

Wuhan is a major transport and commercial hub in central China and has many migrant workers.

It's a move, she says mockingly, that has "raised eyebrows among the common folk and the ire of the authorities".

"I can understand the feelings of the ordinary people simply because prostitution is not part of your everyday conversation," says the former primary school teacher.

Her resume includes being a secretary, Hakka culture researcher and handicraft maker.

Ms Ye wanted to create awareness of the predicament of sex workers by offering a first-hand perspective of their lives.

Her bold experiment has made her a global sensation. Her story has been featured in international media, including The Economist.

The woman who calls herself "Hooligan Yan" says adamantly: "My name is synonymous with the word 'hooker'.

"But I have no hidden agenda. I just believe in speaking up against the injustice on behalf of a group that has been oppressed for so long."

She was also fed up with being arrested (three times) just because she "advocated the legalisation of prostitution".

Providing sex for money - or in her case, for free - is not always wrong.

She explains why she offered free sex: "Since I wasn't charging a fee, I didn't have to worry about being charged for prostitution."

In January, just before Chinese New Year, she offered free sex to four men, aged between 18 and 50 in Wuhan, about 17 hours drive away from her home in Yulin.

She picked Wuhan because of the many brothels that offer cheap sex.

She had been gung-ho about it at first. But when the migrant workers started peering into the small room she had rented at the brothel, she recoiled in fear.

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