Taiwan's sex trade 'targets Chinese tourists'

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Taiwan's sex business operators are using Internet advertising to lure in solo Chinese tourists recently allowed to visit the island, local media reported Thursday.

A cluster of hostess clubs in a Taipei district have been touting "Ecstasy Taiwan solo trips" on Chinese-language websites abroad hoping for a share in the island's booming tourism market, said SET cable news channel.

The ads have drawn numerous responses from Chinese web users with some clubs offering afternoon sessions to expand their business beyond the usual night hours, reported the mass-circulation Apple Daily newspaper.

"We often have Chinese customers ... who are in their 40s or 50s," the newspaper quoted a hostess as saying.

However, the ad campaigns have caught the eye of local police and at least three clubs have been forced to close down recently, according to SET TV.

The police were not immediately available to comment on the reports.

While there are no official statistics detailing the scale of Taiwan's sex industry, observers estimate it involves hundreds of thousands of people and generates billions of Taiwanese dollars a year.

Taiwan's cabinet recently passed a bill, pending parliament's approval, to allow special zones as the island moves to regulate and decriminalise the sex trade.

Travel between Taiwan and China, which split in 1949 after a civil war, has boomed since Taipei's Beijing-friendly government took power in 2008, pledging to boost trade links and tourism.

Last year, more than 1.63 million Chinese visited Taiwan -- most of them on organised group tours -- a rise of 67 percent from a year before, making China the biggest source of visitors to the island, according to Taipei.

However, Taiwan's tourism operators have been surprised at the fewer than expected solo Chinese tourists who have visited the island since a ban on such travel was lifted a month ago.

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