Chinese parents hire investigators to spy on their children studying in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 December, 2013, 6:26am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 December, 2013, 6:26am

Rich mainland parents are paying thousands of Hong Kong dollars to private investigators to spy on their children studying in Hong Kong, including PhD students and kindergarteners.

Four detective agencies said they handled on average "a few" to "a dozen" week-long investigations for mainland parents every month.

"The number has more than doubled compared to a few years ago," said Kar Liu, a private eye at Wan King On Investigations.

Philic Man Hin-nam, founder and director of Global Investigation and Security Consultancy, an all-woman detective agency, said that mainland student cases accounted for about 40 per cent of the more than 100 requests made by parents last summer for information on their children.

The majority of family cases were instigated by Hong Kong parents who had reason to fear their children were involved with drugs or being led astray.

"Many mainland students studying in Hong Kong are single children from rich families," Liu of Wan King On Investigations said. "Those parents attach great importance to their children's behaviour."

In 2003, two-thirds of Hong Kong's 2,819 mainland students were postgraduates, according to statistics from the University Grants Committee. Last year, the number of mainland students had ballooned to 10,956. Close to one in six were younger than 18 years of age when their studies commenced.

Parents were understandably curious about what their children were doing, Liu said. Typically, a team of three agents monitor a student, taking photos and reporting back to parents daily. They are sometimes requested to monitor the nannies charged with taking children across the border to kindergartens, or to put devices in schoolbags to keep tabs on children's locations.

Costs ran from several thousand Hong Kong dollars to "no upper limit", depending on how detailed and how long the client wanted an investigation, the detectives said.