Meet the ‘mis­tress hunters’ of China

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse -

DON’T get mad, get your op­po­nent to sur­ren­der vol­un­tar­ily: When Ms Wang dis­cov­ered her hus­band had been cheat­ing on her for sev­eral years, she called in an elite team of Chi­nese “mis­tress hunters”.

Rather than seek a di­vorce – which could have hit her so­cial and fi­nan­cial standing – she hired a spe­cial­ist to earn the other woman’s trust, and then per­suaded her to end the ex­tra-mar­i­tal re­la­tion­ship.

It was a long­stand­ing af­fair, but once the mis­tress hunters were called in, it was over within two months.

Wang said she paid be­tween 400,000 and 500,000 yuan (US$60,000-$75,000) for the ser­vice.

“I think it was worth it. I’m sat­is­fied,” she added. So much so, she is now think­ing of be­com­ing a hunter her­self.

“That way I can help women pro­tect their fam­i­lies and their rights,” she ex­plained.

The com­pany Wang used, Weiqing – or “pro­tec­tor of feel­ings” – has 59 of­fices across the coun­try, and of­fers free le­gal ad­vice and lec­tures.

Its founder Shu Xin said he has 300 agents at his com­mand.

“My goal is to pre­vent di­vorces,” he told AFP at his up­mar­ket Bei­jing head­quar­ters. “Ev­ery year we save some 5000 couples.”

The mis­tress hunters are mostly women and are all psy­chol­ogy, so­ci­ol­ogy or law grad­u­ates.

They spend three years learn­ing the ropes be­fore be­ing sent out into the field, where they pose as neigh­bours, clean­ers or even babysit­ters.

Ming Li, 47, has been do­ing the job for three years. “I’m older than th­ese mis­tresses, in gen­eral, so they lis­ten to me,” she said.

“If the mis­tress goes to a park, to the su­per­mar­ket or to work, I’ll hap­pen to meet her. And even if she is a stay-at-home sort of per­son, I can claim I’ve got a leak in my apart­ment and ask for her help,” she told AFP. “We al­ways find a way to ini­ti­ate con­tact.

“One time, I pre­tended to be a for­tune teller, and the mis­tress asked me to tell hers. Ob­vi­ously, I al­ready knew all about her from the wife, so it was easy to leave her dumb­founded and ex­hort her to leave the hus­band. It was one of our most quickly re­solved cases.”

Chi­nese di­vorce rates have surged from 1.59 per 1000 peo­ple in 2007 to 2.67 in 2014, ac­cord­ing to the most re­cently avail­able civil af­fairs min­istry fig­ures – far higher than in Europe, with France at 1.9 and Italy at just 0.9.

In Bei­jing, of­fi­cial sta­tis­tics show 73,000 couples di­vorced in 2015 – al­most three times the num­ber nine years pre­vi­ously.

“The rea­sons? The lib­er­al­i­sa­tion of morals, ten­sions re­lated to dif­fer­ences be­tween the hus­band’s and the wife’s in­come, in­com­pat­i­ble per­son­al­i­ties,” said Zhu Ruilei, a di­vorce at­tor­ney at Bei­jing-based law firm Yingke. “But also the de­sire to pur­sue per­sonal dreams is stronger than it used it be.”

Ac­cord­ing to a study by dat­ing site Baihe.com, at least one party has been un­faith­ful in half of Chi­nese first mar­riages.

The sur­vey found that more than 21 per­cent of first-time hus­bands have had a mis­tress, and a sim­i­lar num­ber – 20pc – of wives have had a lover. In nearly 9pc of first mar­riages, both part­ners have cheated.

“To­day be­ing un­faith­ful has be­come easy, es­pe­cially with the in­ter­net,” said Pan Xing­shi, who runs an on­line ad­vice com­pany, re­fer­ring to the pop­u­lar­ity of Tan­tan, China’s equiv­a­lent of Tin­der.

But mis­tresses are still poorly re­garded in the coun­try, where hav­ing chil­dren out of wed­lock re­mains so­cially taboo. They are known as xi­aosan, a deroga­tory term mean­ing a third per­son of lower rank than a wife.

Some­times they fall vic­tim to vi­o­lent vig­i­lan­tism.

In June, a video went viral show­ing a naked girl be­ing at­tacked by a group of women. She was sus­pected of be­ing the mis­tress of one of the women’s hus­bands.

“Mis­tresses are global. But specif­i­cally in China they are kept women: The hus­bands, of­ten rich, pay for lux­ury apart­ments, cars and lux­ury prod­ucts,” ex­plained Weiqing chief Shu, a for­mer jour­nal­ist.

“Some women do not want to di­vorce out of fear of get­ting into fi­nan­cial dif­fi­culty. They just want to get rid of the mis­tress. That’s where we come in,” said Shu.

It is an ex­pen­sive process: The mis­tress hunters of­ten have to rent sim­i­larly pricey ac­com­mo­da­tion and buy high-end jew­ellery and clothes as they try to forge a friend­ship with their tar­gets.

“We are paid a lot. But we also risk los­ing a lot too, be­cause if we fail then we re­pay the en­tire amount,” ex­plained Shu, who says his mis­tress hunters sent 8552 women pack­ing in 2014 – some hus­bands have more than one.

Un­der Chi­nese law the ac­tiv­i­ties of Weiqing and sim­i­lar firms are not il­le­gal, said Zhu, the lawyer, adding that they “serve a pur­pose”.

But there were also “many prob­lems”, he added: “In­va­sion of pri­vacy, the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the mis­tress and the in­ves­ti­ga­tor is based on de­ceit. There is the risk that peo­ple’s feel­ings get hurt.”

Mis­tress hunter Ming has a so­lu­tion for that: “Some­times I help the mis­tress find a boyfriend,” she said. “It’s my way to bring her hap­pi­ness.”

Photo: AFP

Shu Xin, founder of Weiqing, said he wrecked more than 8000 home­wreck­ers in 2014.

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