• Some are claiming to be Korean, Japanese, or simply ‘Asian’, as clients give Chinese people a wide berth
• While there is no official data, Chinese sex workers are understood to be the highest number of foreign nationals working unlawfully in New Zealand
One Chinese sex worker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said she had edited her nationality from Chinese to Asian in two sex directory advertisements online.
She said despite slashing her rates of NZ$180 (US$116) by half, business had still fallen by more than 50 per cent in the last fortnight.
She is a New Zealand resident and has not been back to China for the last eight years, but says clients saw her as “no different to someone who has just arrived from Wuhan”.
“I don’t mention that I am Chinese any more and I offer a big discount, but clients are avoiding us like we are the virus,” the Chinese sex worker said. She said it used to be common for sex workers to claim to be new arrivals as a way to attract would-be clients seeking “fresh girls”, but that now worked against them.
Catherine Healy, an advocate for sex workers and founder of the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective, said these were “extremely worrying times for sex workers”.
“We are concerned about the ability for people to both avoid this virus and survive financially,” Healy said.
The organisation was actively advising those working in the sex industry to follow precautions issued by New Zealand’s Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO), she said.
Although there is no official data, Chinese sex workers are understood to be the highest number of foreign nationals working unlawfully in New Zealand’s sex industry.
Under the Prostitution Reform Act 2003, only New Zealand citizens and residents can work in the sex industry.
Last year, Immigration New Zealand compliance officers visited 57 brothels in cities across the country.
A total of 66 migrant workers were identified, with 36 on visitor visas and two on student visas. All of the sex workers, except for one, were Chinese nationals.