Cocaine, Parties, and Prostitution: The Life of Hong Kong's Young, Wealthy British Expats
Rurik Jutting is an expat turned alleged murderer who spent his time in Hong Kong doing drugs and seeing many prostitutes. While not all expats commit murder, Jutting's hyper-hedonistic lifestyle is normal for young Brits making a fortune in China.
Prostitutes (on the right) trying to entice potential clients outside a bar in Hong Kong's Wan Chai district. Photo by "Amaury dR"
This article originally appeared on VICE UK
"He wasn't mean or aggressive. He was nice, well educated, and OK."
These are the words used by a prostitute in an exclusive interview with VICE to describe regular client and former Merrill Lynch banker Rurik Jutting, who was arrested on the November 1 for the murder of two women in his Hong Kong flat and ruled mentally fit to stand trial last week.
"Mandy" (not her real name) advertises herself on Craigslist as a "local chick that loves white stick," accompanied with close-up shots of her crotch. The petite 23-year-old is articulate and intelligent, with a girlfriend who also works as a prostitute. Born in Hong Kong, Mandy began sex work four years ago while studying at a university in northwest England, leaving "tart cards" in telephone booths across town. In Hong Kong, she finds customers online and charges HKD2000 ($260) for two hours' work.
She claims her relationship with Jutting began about a month before he—as she puts it—"went off the rails," after he saw her profile on Craigslist and texted her directly. Their first meeting was in a room on the 15th floor of a hotel less than five minutes away from his flat. They met 12 times, never at his place. "As a rule I stay away from anywhere I can't call for help," she told me.
Following his arrest, local media outlets reported that police had recovered a small amount of cocaine from his apartment. Mandy corroborates this. "We never did much, as the coke made him not able to [perform]," she says. "When he got jumpy, I would just ask him to sit down and talk."
During their very first text conversation—before they'd even met in person—Jutting mentioned drugs as an incentive for her to pay him a visit: "If you like to get high... Have a lot of coke..."
For expat bankers like Jutting—those with cash to burn and a pair of restless nostrils—getting hold of drugs is as easy as walking down any street in Central or Wan Chai. While locals prefer ketamine and meth, cocaine is the drug of choice for most young expats in the city. It doesn't come cheap, at HKD1000 ($125) a gram, but then money is hardly a concern for a single young man earning up to $550,000 a year. These factors have united to create a culture in which visiting prostitutes and taking lots and lots of cocaine quickly becomes normalized for young British expats arriving in Hong Kong.
Xander is a blond former public schoolboy originally from Eastbourne, who now works in the financial industry. He moved to Hong Kong last year and quickly gained a penchant for substances. "I get offered drugs more than once a day," said the 25-year-old. "You go out and everyone's on it."
After graduating from a prestigious Scottish university he was originally sent to work in Singapore—a country with a harsh anti-drugs policy—where he had his first experience of prostitution. "Before I came to Asia, I would never have dreamed of it," he told me. "I would never have slept with a prostitute back home."
But on his 24th birthday, he and his colleagues finished work and decided to go to a bar at the notorious Orchard Towers, the so-called "shopping mall of sex," known locally as the "four floors of whores." The group of guys ordered a round of drinks, and it wasn't long before a girl approached them.
"That's how it works—a girl starts talking to you, and you think she really likes you and she's just like any other girl," said Xander. "You start kissing her... maybe you finger her... and then she tells you how much she costs. I was shocked the first time, but then the ease of how it happens makes it OK."
From her time working as a prostitute in both the UK and Hong Kong, Mandy's come to believe that while many men pay for sex, the situation is considerably worse in the East. "In Asia it's generally easier to find, and cheaper," she said. "It's the kid in a candy store. Like, if I gave you a credit card with no cut-off point and let you loose in Harrods, wouldn't you shop like crazy?"
I asked whether there are any perceptible differences between her work in the UK and Hong Kong, and she used an average English customer as her example in both situations. "[In England, he] hires me because his wife won't do anal and call him daddy," she said. "But in Hong Kong the same guy hires me just to talk about how he never sees his family. [He] just wants human connection."
By the time he arrived in Hong Kong, Xander had grown accustomed to paying for sex and vows never to return to London. "Hong Kong is just like an adult Disneyland—there are no laws here," he told me.
Russell, 29, from Hampstead Heath, felt the same way the first time he came to the city. The softly spoken financial analyst, who spent four years working in Mainland China, recalls the day he landed at the airport and was greeted by an old grammar-school friend.
Russell, who's paid for sex "over 50 times," showed me some of the websites he uses to find prostitutes. All of them are remarkably direct and simple to use, and available in both Chinese and English. Profiles can be filtered by location, price, and working hours, and there's a little icon that shows if one is on her "day off." Each individual profile lists the girl's physical details, mobile number, and a breakdown of what she is and isn't willing to do.
The criteria include the usual "anal," "face cum," and "blowjob without condom," as well as the slightly more unusual "ice fire" and "heater provided." Prostitutes who are deemed OK have a friendly little green tick beside them. There's also a reports section, where users can post reviews and photographs of their experiences with said girl, TripAdvisor-style.
That first night, Russell picked a few girls off the site based on high user ratings. "Twenty minutes later, we were all getting sucked off in the same room," he says. "Though we were mostly too coked out to get hard."
Xander has a similar story. He'd just finished a meeting with an American client, who suggested going for drinks in a Wan Chai bar: "One minute he was telling me about his family and how he was planning on getting his wife and his kids and dog to fly over; the next he was half naked and getting blowjobs from these strippers, right in front of me. So I got one, too. I put it on his tab."
He added: "As a white guy, you feel like you're above the law."
He's not alone in feeling untouchable in a city teeming with young expats. "They feel like kings here," said Mandy. "They're like shooting stars. Normally good back home—real go-getters. They get sent here, they burn quick."
"S," a 22-year-old former escort who now manages a group of high-end prostitutes in Hong Kong and Macau, explained how Westerners generally choose accessibility over quality or comfort. "Foreigners go to Wanchai. They just want a random vagina to please their cock," she said.
While cash-rich expats congregate on the steep roads of Lan Kwai Fong to socialize, those looking to end their night in an hourly "love hotel" will more often than not head to the Wan Chai district. Five minutes away and less than $3 by taxi, the corner of Lockhart Road and Luard Road perfectly encapsulates the madness of Hong Kong's red-light district.
On one side of the road, drug dealers lean against the wall of a Chinese fast food restaurant. On the other side are the working girls, who alternate shifts on high stools next to a foreign exchange counter. Much like in Berlin, where the women on Oranienburger Straße can be identified by their black corsets over puffer jackets, Wan Chai's prostitutes have a kind of uniform of their own: long hair; minimal makeup, but for a slash of strawberry-red lipstick; and a skimpy outfit usually consisting of a tube top and hot pants. They rest their stilettos against the footrests of their stools or lean against the street signs outside their bars, texting or chatting with one another like bored schoolgirls.
As you approach the corner they look up to give you the once-over. If there are any women in a group they return to their nail files and smartphones. If it's a group of men or a lone wolf, they leap from their stations and call out to them: "Hey, handsome! Want to party?"
New Makati Pub & Disco sits on a street corner. It's where Jutting reportedly met his second victim, 29-year-old Seneng Mujiasih (otherwise known as Jesse Lorena). Makati, along with a few other bars on the Lockhart Road strip and Jaffe Road, is also home to "freelancers" who don't have a mama-san—or female pimp—and are hassled away by the street girls who fiercely guard their territory.
The two women whose bodies were discovered in Jutting's flat—a mere three minutes walk from Makati—were both from Indonesia. Indonesians make up almost half of Hong Kong's 320,000 domestic workers, and many travel into the city looking for employment, only to find themselves working part-time as sex workers in order to pay off debts or make ends meet.
"Tiara," 24, moved from her hometown in Indonesia to Hong Kong five years ago and now works full-time as a prostitute, charging HKD1500 ($188) for up to two hours, or HKD3000 ($392) for a whole night. She used to find customers in Makati, but now also advertises online because she finds the internet to be a safer way of screening men. Business has deteriorated recently, and she pleads with me for help with drumming up customers. "You have many white male friends, right? If they need a fun girl then you can introduce me—I can do everything," she said, before listing all the sexual services on offer.
Most of Tiara's customers are Western expats and many of them take drugs. "They do hard sex to me. They pay, but sometimes they make me hurt," she said. I asked her what she thinks of the Jutting case. "He is a psychopath," she replied.
Mandy's last meeting with Jutting was only two days before he's said to have killed his first victim. I asked her if she ever felt unsafe during any of their meetings. "Never," she replied. "He was cool."
Jutting's last text message to her referred to his license being pulled, only four days before his arrest. "He was scared about something, but didn't say [what]," she told me. What was her first thought when she saw the news? "That they pushed a cokehead too far."
Mandy's attitude towards Jutting can be applied to all of her young British clients, those seeking out personal contact for cash in a country and culture that's as new and exciting as it is intense and isolating. "It's not that I liked him; it's that I knew he was going to burn—but not like that," she told me. "So I felt sorry for him, perhaps even pity."