Meng Guanggang , 55, turned in his police chief's badge 10 years ago to set up as one of the first private detectives in Shenyang , Liaoning. The man dubbed the mainland's 'No1 private detective' tells Irene Wang about his encounters in the business.
Why did you leave the police force in July 1993?
As the head of a police station, I found the Public Security Bureau (PSB) couldn't fulfil the many requirements of ordinary people and companies, such as civil affairs or collecting evidence.
What is the difference between the two professions?
It's more difficult for a private detective to investigate. People have to co-operate with the police, but they do not have the obligation to facilitate the work of private detectives.
People discriminate against us. They think China can't have a capitalist industry, and they can't accept any other investigative body apart from the Public Security Bureau.
In fact, I see us as a supplement to the judicial system, just as the private economy supplements the state-owned economy.
Who are your clients and what type of cases do you accept?
I work for individuals, companies, lawyers and governmental bodies such as the PSB. Last year, we investigated and controlled a group of old people going to Beijing to mourn at Tiananmen Square. But most cases we do are business disputes, cases of fraud, cheating husbands and unfaithful wives. I won't touch industrial espionage, political and military intelligence. I won't break the law.
How much do you charge and how long does an investigation take?
I usually charge between 15,000 and 600,000 yuan. The investigation can take anywhere from two days to three months. But we can solve some problems by making a phone call.
What was your biggest success as a private detective?
A swindler conned banks and companies out of 20 million yuan then disappeared and one of his victims hired us to find him. I had a hunch his former accountant knew where the swindler was, so my client took her out to dinner, and made her use his phone.
After the meal one of my men drove her and her husband home in a bugged taxi. Between the phone numbers and the conversation, we tracked the swindler to Beijing, where he was arrested.
What is the future of the mainland private detective industry?
I'm very optimistic ... many private detectives are messy, but no firms have been stripped of their licence yet. I hope that in the future private detectives can combat criminal cases in the political sphere, and catch corrupt officials.