China, Hong Kong: Yuet Lin Yim

Sex work is work.

— Yuet Lin Yim

Yim Yuet Lin joined the workforce in Hong Kong with only a few years of basic school education. In the late 70s, Yim started to be involved in the labor movement. She saw how workers were exploited and she herself faced unjust treatment from her employer. In 1996, Yim and three other friends founded Ziteng (“Chinese wisteria”), a sex workers’ concern group, which aims to provide support to sex workers.

Born to a poor migrant family from the Mainland, Yim Yuet Lin became a full-time factory worker when she was in her early teens. It was a time when there was a large demand on cheap labor and labor legislation was not yet in place. Having witnessed how her fellow factory workers were being exploited and fallen victim herself to unjust treatment by her employer, Yim became an active member of the labor movement. In 1989, she helped found the Hong Kong Women Workers’ Association to address in particular women workers’ predicaments and to protect their labor rights. In 1996, Yim and three other friends established Ziteng, a concern group that aims to provide direct services to sex workers and to eliminate discrimination and social exclusion. They believe sex work is work. One of the main objectives of Ziteng is to foster the capacity of sex workers to organize themselves to define and defend their cause. In recent years, some sex workers have participated in rallies and activities complaining of police abuses and calling for the decriminalization of sex work. They appear in press conferences and for two consecutive years marched to the government house and police headquarters to file their complaints. They also go to conferences and exchanges to share their experiences. In 2003, over 30 sex workers took part in a photography project, an exhibition of photographs taken by sex workers themselves. This is the first of its kind in the Territory and has been very well received. Despite financial and human resources constraints, Ziteng under Yim’s leadership has been able to explore new possibilities and continues its services to sex workers in Hong Kong and the Mainland. Among others, they have been able to forge links among sex workers in the region.

Ziteng ("Chinese wisteria")