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China’s mistress hunters cash in on cheating husbands

Business is booming for services for ending extramarital affairs in China, as a more relaxed attitude to sex has led to an increase in divorces.

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 March, 2017, 11:02pm
UPDATED : Friday, 10 March, 2017, 11:06am

As the Chinese have become more open-minded about sexual relationships in recent decades, so the number of couples filing for divorce on the grounds of adultery has risen dramatically.

The growing propensity for married men to stray away from home has given rise to a new type of business which seems as unlikely as it is lucrative.

Meet the ‘mistress hunters’ – companies paid by angry or despondent wives to put an end to their husbands’ extramarital transgressions.

Some of their methodology reads like something out of a John le Carre spy thriller.

Typically, a trained female professional is sent undercover to contrive a situation in which she “accidentally” meets the cheating husband’s mistress. Having made the initial contact, she then sets about patiently gaining her trust before eventually trying to persuade her to put an end to the affair.

One such company to provide a “mistress hunting” service in addition to more traditional marriage guidance offerings is Shanghai Weiqing Network Technology. The firm claims to “save” thousands of marriages every year.

For me, people who seek this kind of service do not really love their partner
Li Yinhe, sociologist

Boasting a large client base mainly consisting of heartbroken wives who can afford the service fee – a standard charge for dispelling a mistress is about 50,000 yuan – the company has enjoyed healthy profits in recent years. It recently applied to list its shares through the National Equities Exchange and Quotations (NEEQ), China’s over-the-counter stock market.

According to a company filing to NEEQ, Weiqing’s operating income for the first 10 months of last year was around 17 million yuan, almost double what it made in the whole of 2015.

The company derived all of its income from its “marriage counselling” service, the filing said.

“Our main target clients are people who are going through a divorce or have cheating partners,” it said. “We will provide them with customised solutions to save their marriage”.

By “customised solutions”, the firm means its “mistress disposal” professionals.

Weiqing’s founder, 49-year-old former reporter Shu Xin, said previously in an interview with AFP news agency that his goal was to “prevent divorces”.

“Every year we save some 5,000 couples,” he was quoted as saying.

Weiqing did not respond to repeated requests for comment from the Post.

The rise of businesses like Weiqing would appear to be inversely proportional to the mainland’s social morals which have, by most measures, loosened considerably since the 1970s. Previously treated as a crime and categorised as “hooliganism”, promiscuity is today no less acceptable than in western countries.

But with this change in attitudes came a rocketing divorce rate and a growing number of extramarital affairs.

According to government figures, 3.84 million Chinese adults – equivalent to about a half of Hong Kong’s population – filed for divorce in 2015, up 17 times from 1986 when the Ministry of Affairs started keeping records.

Extramarital relationships are cited as the major reason for broken marriages in China, according to some surveys. While relationship counselling is common practice in much of the world, the profession of ‘mistress disposal’ has, at least so far, emerged as a uniquely Chinese offering.

“The flourishing of those mistress hunter companies clearly indicates one thing: China is still pretty much a male-dominated country,” said Li Yinhe, a prominent Chinese sociologist who once said on a Chinese TV show that the concept of marriage would eventually die out as it is “against humanity”.

Li is cynical about the motivations of women employing the services of a “mistress hunter”.

“For me, people who seek this kind of service do not really love their partner,” she said. “It’s mostly driven by material interests.”

In the 1980s, only 6 per cent of people dared to file for divorce under the country’s strict social control system, according to a survey Li conducted at the time.

“People who slept with members of the opposite sex who were not their partner would be seen as having a behavioural, or ‘Zuo-Feng,’ problem, which could seriously damage their career or reputation,” she said.

Now that people have more financial freedom and leeway in their personal lives, having a lover on the side does not present the problem it might once have been.

Weiqing wasted no time in tapping this fast-growing trend and now has more than 50 offices across China, including in Beijing, Anhui, Shenzhen and Shanghai.

The service charge ranges from 800 yuan per hour for straightforward counselling to 50,000 yuan for ‘disposing of’ a mistress. According to its filing, one client prepaid 200,000 yuan for Weiqing’s service, while four others each prepaid 100,000 yuan for it.

While there is on average one marriage counsellor for every 300 to 500 families in developed nations, there are only 2.3 counsellors per million people in China, according to figures from the Ministry of Civil Affairs. This, according to Weiqing’s filing, presents a huge gap in the market for marriage counselling services.

Weiqing is now going through the NEEQ’s review process for listing and is waiting to find out if its application has been successful, according to the authority’s website records. Known as the “new third board”, the NEEQ is a platform for small and medium sized enterprises to raise funds. It is only open to investors who have at least 5 million yuan, while retail investors can trade on the Shanghai or Shenzhen bourses freely.

With a lower threshold for company listings compared to other major bourses, the NEEQ would seem a natural choice for small firms like Weiqing. However, its review process for firms wishing to list has been criticised for being too loose.

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