By Mail Foreign Service
In chains: Two Chinese prostitutes barefoot so they won't run away, are handcuffed and tied to a rope by police as part of a crackdown on the sex trade in China
Handcuffed, shoeless and tied to a rope, these girls are being led through the streets of China as part of a police crackdown against prostitution.
But the images of the girls being frogmarched down the Guangzhou road - with their shoes removed to stop them running away - have shocked many in China.
An outraged Chinese woman named Wan Yu took the images on her mobile phone and posted on the web.
She said: 'These girls are still young and should be given the minimum respect.
Parading them through the streets like animals in full view of the public is not the way to treat them.'
With the upcoming 2010 Asian Games being hosted in the Guangdong province on China's southern coast this November, officials have ordered a crackdown on the sex industry to clean up the streets.
Guangzhou, which is the capital of the province, is the second city in China to host the Games after Beijing in 1990.
A police spokesman defended the broad daylight action saying the girls had been ordered to give them information about where they plied their trade.
Crackdown: The girls, along with an unidentified man, were marched into a Guangzhou police station
He also said that the public humiliation of the women and their customers would have been a further deterrent to other people considering getting involved in prostitution.
Illegal prostitution is increasingly rapidly in China.
During the country's Cultural Revoltion in the 60s and 70s, men and women were often segregated.
Mao Zedong's regime launched a harsh crackdown on prostitution.
But now - thanks to China's rapidly expanding economy and the introduction of Western values in the cities and even parts of the rural countryside - things have changed.
Today even the smallest cities have versions of a Red Light district, brothels are tolerated, and travellers often find prostitutes phoning them in their hotel rooms to offer their services.
The sex toy industry is also sharply expanding, with some figures suggesting that China provides products for up to 70% of the global industry.