The legality of “happy endings” has become a very heated debate in China. Law officials are wondering if the practice, which does not involve actual sexual intercourse, is a crime.

The question baffling Chinese officials is whether the practice, a masturbatory service performed by a woman at certain massage parlors, is illegal and the women performing the act should be classified as prostitutes, reports the Associated Press. Prostitution is illegal in China, and the “happy ending” could be considered an act of prostitution since it is a paid service and men go to certain massage parlors with the understanding that the practice is performed at those locations.

The debate has expanded beyond just a few officials discussing the question to become the fodder of national newspapers. The public discussion stems from the recent arrests of several massage parlor owners and workers involved in the sexual services, notes Global Times. The arrests were made in the Guangdong Province and a court ruling in 2012 had determined the service was not illegal as it does not involve actual intercourse.

As the Global Times reports, the Intermediate People's Court in Foshan overturned a lower court’s prostitution conviction of a group of massage parlor workers hired to perform these special types of massages. The women could have faced five years in jail if the conviction had been upheld. Luo Guangfei, a criminal lawyer who spoke to Global Times, said, “Judged by the Criminal Law, those people are innocent, because there is no sex act or sex trade involved. We may find it uncomfortable ethically, but there is no proof in the law to declare them guilty.”

The Guangdong Province ruling may have sparked a national debate, but it remains unclear if the sexual practice, which is popularly employed in various Chinese cities, would be made illegal throughout the country. While the court ruled the massage parlor practice was not illegal, it did say the act was morally wrong, notes AP. Another court in the Zhejiang Province agrees with the Guangdong Province ruling, but Beijing police say they will arrest those suspected of offering the service at a massage parlor.

The fact that the debate on the legality of a “happy ending” is still ongoing points to a new openness in China. As AP notes, the country used to punish prostitution with death.