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Undercover sting operation alerted to activities by explicit ads

A teenage school dropout was among 19 people arrested as part of a crackdown on “compensated dating” in Hong Kong.

A month-long investigation ended on Saturday with an ­undercover sting operation as ­police arrested 13 men and six women at various locations, with all suspected of providing, or using, “part-time girlfriend or boyfriend” online dating services for sex.

Investigators from Mong Kok district were alerted to the activities by explicit advertisements that appeared online, as well as recruitment ads on social media and mobile applications.

Those arrested, all between the ages of 16 and 40, included three male students from a secondary school, a tertiary institute, and a Vocational Training Council institute. The youngest person detained was an unemployed 16-year-old girl who had dropped out of school, while a 29-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of being a middleman.

Six were suspected of being service users, including one who claimed to be an engineer.

Also detained were two Indonesian women, one of whom worked as a domestic helper, and another whose visa had expired.

Of the 19, six men and six women were arrested for providing sex in the form of compensated dating – an arrangement where one person pays another for companionship and often ­sexual relations.

While prostitution itself is not illegal in the city, “soliciting for ­immoral purposes” in a public place is.

Senior Inspector Timothy Cheung Chun-long said on Sunday those suspected part-time girlfriends or boyfriends had provided their services for money, and that no coercion had been ­involved to get them to take part in the scheme. They charged between HK$1,000 to HK$4,000 (US$510) for each encounter.

Investigators believe the ­middleman controlled two of the “part-time boyfriends” and helped them find clients, charging as much as 50 per cent in commission. He was arrested for controlling people for the purpose of unlawful sexual intercourse or prostitution.

The others involved were ­arrested for soliciting for an immoral purpose, an offence that carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a HK$10,000 fine.

Cheung said the investigation, code-named Operation Riverland, would continue as police attempted to find out whether more people were involved.

During the operation, officers seized mobile phones, nurse and sailor uniforms, handcuffs, condoms and lubricants. Sixteen of those arrested were released on bail and must report back next month.