SINGAPORE - The story of how a 17-year-old girl from China ended up being a prostitute at the centre of an underage sex ring here was described by the judge hearing the case as "really heartbreaking" on Wednesday.
A district court heard how the minor went through a harrowing experience which began when her family in Shandong, China, wanted to raise money to pay off her late father's debts.
She embarked on a journey that brought her to Macau, then Zhuhai, China, where she was beaten by her pimp and forced to have sex with him repeatedly before she ended up in Geylang to work as a prostitute.
Three men pleaded guilty to charges of engaging in commercial sex with the girl and were sentenced to 11 weeks in jail each.
The three were logistics supervisor Yeo Choon Seng, 41, social worker Ng Chak Song, 57, and cleaner Low Kia How, 50. Sentencing for 65-year-old cleaner Koh Sui Kim, who was also convicted, was postponed to Oct 2, pending a medical report.
In passing sentence, District Judge Low Wee Ping said the teenager was here because of international trafficking of minors for the purpose of prostitution. "I hope you will now understand the rationale as to why the legal and judicial system takes a serious view of these offences."
Deputy Public Prosecutor Stella Tan Wei Ling said the minor's woes began after her father died from cancer in October 2011. He incurred debts of 100,000 yuan (S$21,000) for his medical treatment. The minor and her mother, on meagre salaries, could barely pay the debts off, said Ms Tan.
The minor's employer suggested that she work in a Macau casino to earn more money. The minor agreed and travelled with her employer to Macau in January this year.
Her employer introduced her to Tang Huiying - the sister of the minor's pimp, Tang Huisheng, 37 - who told the teenager that she could not help her get a job in the casino as she was underage.
Instead, she told her that she could solicit "VIP customers" and earn a 1 per cent commission.
Ms Tan said Tang Huiying tricked the teenager into believing that her brother, who was in Zhuhai at that time, would teach her how to solicit for such customers. The teen was brought to Zhuhai to meet Tang Huisheng, who fed her with Ice or methamphetamine, and had sex with her while she was in a stupor.
This went on for several days and Tang would beat her up when she refused to have sex.
When she learnt that Tang would be bringing her to Singapore to work as a prostitute, she refused and he locked her up in a room for more than a week.
The minor tried to escape by jumping out of the fifth-storey room. She was injured and was caught by Tang, who hit her on the back, chest and head.
He also took her passport, money, identity card and cellphone, and threatened to "create trouble" for her mother in Shandong if she tried to escape again.
Tang promised the girl that she could go home after working for him in Singapore for two months.
Tang and the minor then left Zhuhai for Singapore on May 16. He took her to Geylang to work as a prostitute from May 18 until her arrest on June 1.
Tang is claiming trial to charges of procuring the girl for prostitution and other vice-related charges, and his case is pending.
So far, four other men had been dealt with earlier and were sentenced to between 11 and 12 weeks in jail for similar offences involving the minor.
Under the law, it is illegal for anyone to engage in commercial sex with a minor below 18 years of age. Anyone convicted of the charge is liable to face a maximum seven years in jail and a fine.
Another seven men who were allegedly involved in having sex with the minor are expected to plead guilty today.
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