At Chinese brothel, a room for Communist Party cadre fantasies

China's anti-corruption drive has seen Communist Party officials accused of moral as well as fiscal failings

From offering Japanese schoolgirl uniforms to creating rooms tricked out with traditional Chinese wedding decor, China’s underground sex industry is always trying to keep up to date with its clients’ fantasies.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that one brothel decided to create rooms outfitted with all the trappings of a Communist Party official’s office.

Recent anti-graft crackdowns have seen tens of thousands of cadres busted for corruption, and along with fiscal crimes many have been accused by party disciplinarians of moral failings, including an offense that translates as “having multiple sex partners.”

When police recently raided a brothel in Yibin, in southwestern China’s Sichuan province, they found rooms that looked exactly like government officials' offices, with role-play services available, the Shanghai-based Paper reported Thursday. The brothel providing such rooms was shut down by the police, and 40 people were arrested. 

Photographs of the brothel’s “office” room showed a red wood desk and a big leather chair. With both a Communist Party and a Chinese national flag standing on the desk, the chambers bore an uncomfortable resemblance to President Xi Jinping’s office. The public got its first look at Xi’s office when he delivered a New Year’s speech on state-run China Central Television at the beginning of 2014.

The Chinese phrase tongjian, which means having an extramarital sexual relationship, has appeared in the Chinese press quite frequently of late. Although there’s no law in China against having an affair while married, internal Communist Party regulations prohibit officials from having such relationships.  

Top-level “tigers,” like former national security czar Zhou Yongkang and rising political star Bo Xilai, have been accused of tongjian, as have countless “flies” -- grass-roots-level officials in small cities and counties. Women aren’t exempt, either: Two female officials were sacked in Shanxi province in late November, and extramarital relationships were among the misconduct charges leveled against them.

Prostitution is illegal in China, and those who operate underground brothels typically pay bribes to local officials or police to keep their businesses running. So perhaps “the office” was simply an attempt to better serve local cadres who may have hesitated to pursue tongjian in their real offices.

Of course, China is hardly the only country where officials have found themselves in hot water over extramarital liaisons, and entrepreneurs have sensed a business opportunity. Green Bay, Wis., for example, has a strip club called the Oval Office.

Some of those who read about the Chinese brothel online praised the operator’s creativity. 

“The product manager has succeeded!” wrote one Weibo user from Shanghai. Said another from Zhejiang province: “Most of their clients are officials, right? This setting can definitely help those customers feel right at home.”

Tommy Yang in The Times' Beijing bureau contributed to this report.

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