BEIJING (AP) — A former member of China's national legislature who is accused of running a brothel with 100 prostitutes at a luxury hotel that he ran in southern China has gone on trial on charges of organizing prostitution.
Liang Yaohui was the biggest name to fall in a wide-ranging crackdown on the sex trade in Dongguan, a manufacturing city near Hong Kong famed for its bathhouses, karaoke parlors and seedy nightlife.
Liang allegedly arranged for 100 prostitutes to entertain clients inside sauna rooms at the city's five-star Crown Prince Hotel, of which he was part-owner and chairman.
The scheme was exposed and the hotel closed following a series of raids in February 2014 that resulted in detention of more than 1,000 prostitutes and their clients and the removal of dozens of police officials suspected of protecting illegal activity and tipping off the gangs who ran them.
The Dongguan prosecutors' office said on its microblog that Liang's trial began Wednesday and would continue Thursday. It wasn't clear when a verdict and sentence would be rendered.
Liang was dismissed from the National People's Congress, China's legislature, following his arrest last year.
The largely ceremonial body, which meets for two weeks only once a year in Beijing, has increasingly become a millionaires' club, with more than 100 members boasting personal wealth of a billion dollars or more.
While requiring little in the way of legislative work, membership in the body accords considerable prestige and facilitates contacts, government connections and other privileges that can be a boon to business.
Members of the roughly 3,000-member body are elected from provincial assemblies, whose members are themselves drawn from city and county legislatures. However, the nominating process is murky, and VIPs such as prominent businessmen and star athletes are often invited to join, while government critics are blocked from doing so.
Along with his hotel, Liang had interests in various businesses, including a property portfolio worth about $325 million, according to state media. The prostitution scheme netted his hotel almost $8 million in 2013 alone, the official Xinhua News Agency said.