Zi Teng, Hong Kong
Centre for sex workers, Hong Kong
In 1996, four women founded the organisation Zi Teng in Hong Kong to support the increasing number of sex workers in the city. Zi Teng is the Chinese name for calamus, a strong and vigorous plant. The organisation advocated rights of sex workers which are employed in the sex industry in Hong Kong. Due to impoverishment in the Chinese countryside, an increasing number of women and girls from the People’s Republic of China took refuge in Hong Kong and Macau. Zi Teng’s September 1999 newsletter quotes a sex worker: ‘My husband’s business had gone bankrupt; we had to pay school fees for our two sons and provide for our family. It was difficult to find a job in our village. A neighbour told me that women could earn money as a sex worker in Hong Kong.’ A majority of these women hardly knew how to read and write, and they are not aware of their rights nor informed about sexually transmittable diseases such as HIV/AIDS. They entered the country on a tourist visa, worked in poor conditions and receive many customers each day in order to pay off their debts to the middleman who had taken them to Hong Kong.
The women of Zi Teng tried to win trust from the sex workers on the street. They offered advice on HIV/AIDS and information on safe sex and safe work practices. They provided simple leaflets on health and sexually transmittable diseases and published a newsletter with stories from sex workers. The police continuously arrest women, which is why Zi Teng provides a 24-hour hotline for information and legal advice. Zi Teng offered legal assistance, resilience training courses, and visited women in prison.
Zi Teng received grants from Mama Cash in 1997, 1999, 2000, 2003 and 2004.