Home-wreckers not welcome on campus
At one Guangzhou university, learning the wrong lessons in love can lead to expulsion.
The South China Normal University issued a stern warning to students last month about having affairs and wrecking marriages.
Students have been warned that maintaining a 'special relationship' with a married person could cause them to be booted off campus.
The regulation classifies cohabiting and sabotaging others' marriages as violations of campus regulations. Offenders will be warned, punished or even expelled, it says, but students will be given a hearing before any punishment is dished out and will be given the right to appeal.
Local media say other universities have introduced similar rules, a reaction to the urban mistress phenomenon that has been growing rapidly in the prosperous Pearl River Delta.
Many students and critics of the regulation say students should be free to have sex with whomever they like and that universities have no right to intrude on their private lives.
'We are adults, and the university management should respect our freedom and individuality,' Shenzhen University student Joe Liang said. 'At the same time, we should take care of our girlfriends and not get them pregnant while they are studying.'
Liang said the new rules appeared to target female students, because very few male students would be involved in affairs with married women.
'It usually happens among those money-worshipping girls on the lookout for rich but married men,' he said. 'Poor male students find it hard to have girlfriends.'
An administrator at the South China Normal University says it has been forced to act after several female students became involved in affairs with married men. Some of the students had even been sued by aggrieved wives.
'How should the university react and face the victims of the affairs? We could not tell the wives 'It's none of our business; you go talk with the student',' the administrator said.
She said the rules could at least provide a kind of vaccination against affairs between students and married people.
'The rules were necessary to guide students,' she said. 'We have to set up standards to tell them what are the right things to do.'
The universities' concern is not without foundation. On weekends, many luxury cars can be seen parked at university gates in Guangzhou and Shenzhen. The drivers, mostly middle-aged men, are waiting for their young girlfriends.
Rapid economic development on the mainland has caused the gap between the rich and the poor to grow wider and made money the main preoccupation of many.
A lot of female students admit they would prefer to date a rich middle-aged man rather than a poorer man closer to their own age.
Earlier this year, a female college student declared on a television talk show that she would rather be a rich man's concubine than marry a poor man for love. Some viewers hailed her honesty.
'One of my classmates has been going to Starbucks quite often this year,' a third-year student at Shenzhen University said. 'She wore a new black leather jacket and was carrying a Louis Vuitton handbag last week. It makes us jealous.
'We all know she has a rich boyfriend. The man looks much older than us. No one cares if he's married or not. It's her private matter.'
A mistress has become a must-have for bureaucrats, businessmen and even party officials. Young, attractive college students are preferred.
'We are in a commodity economy. Labour, love, beauty, power - it's all tradable,' writer Tu Qiao says. 'A young and intellectual mistress is a symbol to prove their success and achievement.'
In a government review of 102 corruption cases in several Guangdong cities a few years ago, every one involved an illicit affair. Li Yong , a famous news anchor for Guangdong TV and the idol of many young female students, was exposed as a mistress of Chen Shaoji , a former top political adviser in the province who has been given a suspended death sentence for accepting bribes.
Many students say the new rules are impractical, because it will be difficult to obtain evidence, and that universities have no right to punish students over their private lives anyway.
'It is improper for the university to intervene in our private lives,' Deng Liting , a female student at Shenzhen University, said. 'Besides, who can prove whether it's a pure relationship or just a commercial transaction? Even if it is a commercial transaction, it's none of their business.'