Mole remover changes fate in half an hour - believe it or not
On the mainland, doctors provide modern mole-removal services by laser at reasonable prices at public hospitals and clinics. This has not, however, stopped people from patronising Qin Jinquan, 50, whose traditional mole-removal business has carried on at a street-side stand in Shenzhen for 25 years.
When and why did you start the mole-removal business?
I began the business in Shenzhen in 1986 with a secret herbal recipe for mole or freckle removal inherited from my grandfather. Before migrating to Shenzhen, my family struggled as farmers in Maoming, western Guangdong. Villagers there could not afford doctors and many used herbs to cure diseases according to traditional Chinese therapies.
We can't afford any advertising because it's only a street business. My elder sister, sister-in-law, wife and I all pitch in to keep it going.
Is it true that according to Chinese traditional mole reading, moles on different parts of the body bear special meanings and are sometimes linked to one's fate?
Yes, that's the reason why many Chinese people want to remove their moles, especially those on the face. According to the ancient Chinese art of facial mole studies, not all moles are bad but those on the face serve as a warning or reminder. Many Chinese people try to protect themselves from harm by removing moles that symbolise bad luck or misfortune. Of course, there are also many who get it done for the sake of looking beautiful and boosting their sense of self-esteem.
Some moles are known to become cancerous over time, so mole removal helps eliminate such a possibility. For that purpose, I suggest to clients to seek clinical procedures in hospitals.
What kinds of people visit your stand? Do you get Hongkongers and foreigners?
It's difficult to classify my clients. The ratio of men to women is generally equal. It's hard to tell whether they truly believe in the traditional facial mole studies or just want a better physical appearance. I guess both are taken into account.
Many of them didn't plan ahead; they just passed by my stand while shopping and had their moles removed within half an hour. Some Hong Kong people visit my stand because it's located in one of the busiest shopping districts in Shenzhen. I've had only a few foreign clients because I don't speak English and they can't understand the Chinese illustration about facial mole studies that hangs at my stand.
Have you experienced government harassment before, since mole removal is seen as superstition?
Yes. Like Chinese palm and face reading, the business of mole removal is a grey area on the mainland because the communists don't believe facial characteristics are linked to one's fate. They describe it as a kind of superstition. I have to be careful all the time and refuse almost all interviews with mainland media, to avoid harassment from the authorities.
You pay rent of some 20,000 yuan (HK$23,600) for a 3 square metre stand per month. Can you break even?
The property market makes me very angry every time I talk about it. The rent has been raised so high that it's jumped at least 10 times during the past decade, but my income, as with the average public, can't keep pace with the booming property market. A stand of 3 square metres like this would have cost about 1 million yuan a decade ago, but now it costs 4 million yuan. I would definitely make much more money if I gave up the mole-removal business and speculated on real estate. Rather than cool down the investment frenzy in property, the government has actually fuelled the speculation because its revenue relies heavily on land rental fees.
In order to pay the rent on my stand, I have to remove at least 60 moles or freckles every day, 30 days a month. And if you consider my family expenses and power bills for the stand, I have to do more. It's much harder to make a living now than 20 years ago.
Qin Jinquan talked to Fiona Tam