Hong Kong police have shut down brothels run out of converted public toilet cubicles, arresting 86 people in raids.

Prostitutes from mainland China were found operating one-woman brothels from toilet cubicles in a mostly empty shopping centre in the Yuen Long district, it was reported Friday.

In comments published in the South China Morning Post, Chief Inspector Law Kwok-hoi said: "I think it is the first time police have discovered public toilets turned into brothels."

"An initial investigation showed up to 100 customers visited the seven brothels each day," Law said, adding that each were charged $32 for sex services.

The 14sq m blocks on the second floor also served as the prostitutes' working and living space.

There were seven brothels, some converted from empty shops or office space, and operators dealt only with regular customers, who had to give a secret code before being allowed in, the Post reported.

Police later said in a statement that they had arrested 51 women and 35 men aged between 17 and 72 in a two-day operation that started on Tuesday.

There were raids on more than 20 other locations and a quarter of those arrested in the raids were suspected to have connections to triad gangs. 

The 86 were arrested for breach of conditions of stay, extortion, and possession of illegal drugs, among other charges. 

Officers seized a knife, metal pipes and a small amount of a drug suspected to be ketamine.

The South China Morning Post report, citing police sources, said the toilets-turned-brothels had been running for 10 months and that the raids were part of a nine-month operation into the Yuen Long faction of the 14K triad society. 

Prostitution is legal in Hong Kong, but soliciting and living off the earnings of prostitutes are criminal offences.

Source: AFP