‘Steel Roses’: Paris targets Belleville’s Chinese sex workers in pre-Olympics sweep

Rarely have the sex workers in Paris's Belleville neighbourhood, particularly those of Chinese origin, been so worried. As the countdown to the 2024 Paris Olympics continues, so does a police crackdown on the undocumented and vulnerable prostitutes who say they are being targeted in a brutal campaign to polish up the City of Light in time for the Games.

Every month, Aying* sends a part of her earnings to her family in China. Back home, everyone thinks this “60+” grandmother-of-one works in the checkout at a local supermarket.

The reality could not be further from the truth.

For the past decade, she has belonged to a small group of Chinese women who, for various reasons, have ended up selling their bodies on the streets of Belleville, a working-class neighbourhood located in the northeastern part of Paris.

Aying did not mean for things to turn out this way. When she first arrived in Paris in 2013, she had hoped to land a job in one of the city’s many restaurants or bars, perhaps in a boutique.

Finding a job, it turned out, was a lot harder than Aying could have imagined. In just a few months, her money had run out and she found herself working on the streets of Belleville. Returning to China, which she had left for financial reasons and unspecified but seemingly painful “changes in the family”, was never an option.

Repressive methods

Until about a year ago.

“There are many days I have zero clients. Zero revenue.”

Read more on FRANCE 24 English

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