A Factwire investigation into the police raid which found the Police Director of National Security in an unlicensed massage parlour suggests that the incident took place during working hours on a Friday afternoon.
The media first reported on May 12 that Frederic Choi, a senior assistant commissioner and the first ever Director of National Security in Hong Kong, had been found in an unlicensed massage parlour during a raid by other members of the police force.
Only after these reports were published did the police confirm the case, mentioning that the swoop was conducted in “late March” (in Chinese this specifically refers to the last ten days of March) at an unlicensed parlour in Wan Chai suspected of offering sexual services.
However, according to information gathered by FactWire, the police raid took place on March 19. This was not one of “the last ten days of March” and suggests that the police had managed to keep the matter quiet for nearly two months. The authorities have not said whether they hoped to keep the matter from the public indefinitely.
No further information of the exact date, time and location of the operation has yet been provided by the police. Rumours say that it took place at a massage parlour named “Viet Spa” located in Senior Building, on Thomson Road, Wan Chai.
FactWire visited the spot and interviewed more than 100 people in the neighbourhood, confirming that a police operation did take place at Viet Spa in the afternoon of March 19.
According to witnesses, the crackdown was conducted in the afternoon and lasted four or five hours, until dusk. At around 3.00pm that day the police took away a few females, along with some boxes of evidence. None of the witnesses saw any males being brought out.
They added that they only saw plainclothes officers and unmarked cars. There were no uniformed officers or police vehicles. All of them said it was the first and only time they had seen a crackdown of this kind in the vicinity.
Although most witnesses could not recall the exact date of the incident, one of them had immediately notified a friend via WhatsApp, and records on his phone show that this was on Friday, March 19. The date, time, and content of the messages match the statements made by other witnesses.
According to a retired chief superintendent who wished to be anonymous, chief superintendents and officers of higher rank work during “normal office hours’” on weekdays. There is no need for them to work shifts.
This raises the possibility that Choi was visiting an unlicensed massage parlour during his working hours.
FactWire asked the police whether they were trying to conceal the date of the incident, and whether they were investigating Choi’s possible misconduct of visiting a sexual venue during office hours.
They referred FactWire to a press conference previously held by the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau, and refused to comment further.
A regular visitor to Senior Building remembered seeing a “‘very obvious’” pink neon light box when Viet Spa opened in August 2018, which filled the entire T-shaped corridor of that floor with pink neon light. Although the light was later turned down, it still suggested, according to the conventions of the trade, that the spa was offering sexual activities.
“A price list used to be posted outside the shop,” he said, “it was removed along with the neon light box only after the crackdown.” He said that Viet Spa continued its business for a while after the raid, although its sign was changed to “Daisy Spa” in late March. The shop closed when the Choi incident became public.
FactWire obtained a photo of Viet Spa’s price list previously posted. The services listed include aromatherapy massage, Chinese medicine massage, Thai Jabkasai massage, head neck care and lymph drainage, etc.
At least nine threads on an online sex forum, dated between February 2019 and May of this year, suggest that Viet Spa provided sexual services in various forms. These included masturbation, allowing customers to touch the naked bodies of staff, and taking baths with the staff.
Business registration records show that Viet Spa was opened in August 2018 by a person surnamed Wu. Its business nature states it is a massage parlour. Wu also owns at least two other businesses in Wan Chai of the same stated nature, namely “Vietnam Ha Long Bay Spa” (name translated from Chinese) in Thompson Building and “Ming Nga Hin Massage” (name translated from Chinese).
In addition, Wu owns Healthy Beauty Square on 427 Lockhart Road. Although its business nature is registered as “trading of cosmetics and health products”, information on its Facebook page suggests that it also provides massage services.
After the scandal broke on the morning of May 12, the Commissioner of Police Chris Tang told the media that the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau would investigate whether Choi had committed any misconduct. He mentioned that Choi had been on leave since the incident but had not resigned.
Ryan Wong, Chief Superintendent of the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau, then met the press on May 18 to give brief details of the raid in which Choi was found. He said that according to the Bureau’s investigation so far Choi had neither been breaking the law, violating rules, or involved in any immoral behaviour.
A police spokesman clarified afterwards that the investigation had cleared Choi of any illegal or immoral acts. A disciplinary investigation would still have to be conducted to evaluate whether Choi had violated any rules.
As Choi is a gazetted police officer, his employment is subject to the terms of the Public Service (Administration) Order and the Public Service (Disciplinary) Regulations. Any case in which a disciplinary hearing is required would be passed to the Civil Service Bureau.
The Civil Service Bureau said that according to the mechanism, if a senior police officer is suspected of misconduct the Police Force would make a primary investigation. If the force found enough evidence for disciplinary proceedings the case would be referred to the Secretariat on Civil Service Discipline, a division of the Civil Service Bureau.
The Civil Service Bureau said that details of individual cases are not normally disclosed so as to protect personal information and privacy.
FactWire also asked the Department of Justice and the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), whether visiting a sexual venue during office hours would be considered “misconduct in public office”.
Both departments refused to comment.