Tanka women who worked as prostitutes for foreigners also commonly kept a "nursery" Tanka girls specifically for exporting them for prostitution work to overseas Chinese communities such as in Australia or America, or to serve as a Chinese or foreigner's concubine.A report called "Correspondence respecting the alleged existence of Chinese slavery in Hong Kong: presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty" was presented to the English Parliament in 1882 concerning the existence of slavery in Hong Kong, of which many were Tanka girls serving as prostitutes or mistresses to westerners.However, most of the commercial sex worker industry consists of women working in small, usually one room apartments, usually referred to as "one-woman brothels", the equivalent of the "walk-up brothel" in the United Kingdom.They advertise for clients through the Internet and local classifieds.The latter, again, used to be preyed upon—till quite recently His Excellency Governor Hcnnessy stopped this fiendish practice—by informers paid with Government money, who would first debauch such women and then turn round against them charging them before the magistrate as keepers of unlicensed brothels, in which case a heavy fine would be inflicted, to pay which these women used to sell their own children, or sell themselves into bondage worse than slavery, to the keepers of the brothels licensed by Government.Whenever a sly brothel was broken up these keepers would crowd the sheriff's office of the police court or the visiting room to the Government Lock Hospital to drive their heartless bargains, which were invariably enforced with the weighty support of the Inspectors of brothels appointed by Government under the Contagious Diseases Ordinance.The Tanka prostitutes were considered to be "low class", greedy for money, arrogant, and treating clients with a bad attitude, they were known for punching their clients or mocking them by calling them names.
Those protected women, moreover, generally act as protectors each to a few other Tan-ka women who live by sly prostitution.
This exceptional class of Chinese residents here in Hong Kong consists principally of the women known in Hong Kong by the popular nickname "ham-shui-mui" (lit.
salt water girls), applied to these members of the so-called Tan-ka or boat population, the Pariahs of Cantonese society. 1730) allowed them to settle in villages in the immediate proximity of the river, but they were left by him, and remain to the present day excluded from competition for official honours, whilst custom forbids them to intermarry with the rest of the people.
Although organised prostitution is illegal, the industry had always been under the influence of triads to recruit economically disadvantaged women who otherwise would never enter the profession voluntarily.
Until the 1980s, most Hong Kong underground sex establishments were run by gangsters. The Cantonese name of the street, 擺花 (pai fa) literally means "flower arrangement", possibly because of presence of numerous stalls in the area in the mid-19th century, selling flowers From 1884 to 1887 many brothels were declared by the Government to be unlicensed and closed down.
These Tan-ka people of the Canton river are the descendants of a tribe of aborigines pushed by advancing Chinese civilisation to live on boats on the Canton river, being for centuries forbidden by law to live on shore. These Tan-ka people were the secret but trusty allies of foreigners from the time of the East India Company to the present day.