THE traditional view of Chinese villages as close-knit, clan-based communities, has been shattered in Shenzhen's Huang Beiling village - better known locally as 'mistress village'. For a large number of its residents are fashionably dressed and stylishly made-up young women who spend time with different 'husbands' from Monday to Friday. Most have quit their jobs and live on handouts from their Hong Kong-based 'sugar daddies', whiling away their time chatting and shopping. But as the mainland mistresses are reaping the rewards of life with their new-found partners, the men's wives in Hong Kong are facing a far less pleasant fate - the physical pain and mental anguish of venereal disease. With time, however, the mistresses are forced to confront another dilemma: illegitimate, and unwanted, children. Just a 15-minute drive away from the Lowu check-point, the village is guarded by a gate still emblazoned with traditional Chinese calligraphy. Typical modern village buildings, some seven storeys tall, are crowded close together along narrow pathways. The architectural styles clash starkly with that of the older farm houses. While the few remaining elderly residents still inhabit the old-style homes, the mistresses are living a life of local luxury. Their homes are well-decorated, three-bedroom apartments with air-conditioning, colour television sets and private phones. They spend thousands of dollars on cosmetics, stylish clothes, hairdressing and dancing every month. Financed by their 'husbands' to the tune of between $2,000 and $5,000 a month, these mistresses are being seen as models for other mainland girls to follow. While hundreds of residents moved out after the village became infamous, scores of other girls were more than ready to move in, even though they might only be considered playmates by their Hong Kong boyfriends or 'husbands'. 'Mrs' Tang, 34, is a typical example. She has no illusions about her partner, with whom she has a three-year-old daughter. 'I met my husband when I was working in a Shenzhen karaoke restaurant five years ago, then he rented me an apartment in the village for 2,400 yuan [HK$2,200] a month. I wouldn't be surprised if one day he told me he had a wife in Hong Kong because he insisted he would not register a marriage with me here,' she said. No longer working in the karaoke club, Mrs Tang now receives a monthly allowance of $2,000 from her partner, a truck driver. She said it was common for girls in Shenzhen to have Hong Kong boyfriends or husbands. 'I shared an apartment with two other girls before I moved to live with my husband. One of them had three Hong Kong boyfriends and another had four. 'They worked out a schedule to go to one apartment on Monday, another on Wednesday and the third one on Friday,' Mrs Tang said. The girls had relationships with Hong Kong men for money, she said, adding that they did nothing all day but spend money on clothes, hairdressers and going dancing. The men of Huang Beiling village say they prefer to look for less money-minded girls elsewhere, but watching the stylish mistresses saunter down the streets has become a daily pastime. Ng Lingling, 26, a waitress, said it was common for Hong Kong men to look for girls in hotels, restaurants, karaoke pubs and salons. 'They come to chat with waitresses in our restaurant and invite them out. One-night stands are not uncommon. 'Some [relationships] would develop further. They lived with the Hong Kong men in the apartments they rented or bought them. Some had more than one apartment at a time,' said Ms Ng. But the girls have had to pay a price for their promiscuous lifestyle - they were good business for a nearby clinic offering 'sexual disease magic'. 'Girls who have come in here for diagnosis either worked in the salons, karaoke bars or discos,' said Dr Liang Xiaobing. Doubly tragic, however, are the Hong Kong wives who suffer not only their husbands' infidelity but also contract venereal disease and other sexually transmitted ailments from their wandering spouses. Even so, divorce is usually not an option, for many of these women feel they have to stay in the marriage for the sake of their children. At the same time, they may become victims of domestic violence as attempts to raise the problem with an unfaithful husband often escalate into rows. Hong Kong Caritas - the first organisation to set up a support group for the distraught local wives - says it receives a number of inquiries every day. Support group leader Paulina Kwok Chi-ying said six out of its 30 members had been infected with a sexually transmitted disease. Among them is Mrs Lo, 44, who is married to a Hong Kong sales executive. Declining to reveal her full name, Mrs Lo says she has suffered venereal diseases for a decade due to her husband's promiscuity in Guangdong. 'He spent half of his time in China. He never admitted he had women until I got the most unwanted evidence 10 years ago,' she said. A doctor told Mrs Lo she was infected with genital warts. Mrs Lo said she was lucky to have had three children by the time she caught the disease, which might affect a child being born. 'But the doctor said he could only [partly] cure the disease . . . it could reappear at any time.' Then, last November, Mrs Lo contracted another disease from her husband. 'The doctor said this time I was infected with non-gonanococal urethritis. And it couldn't be cured if my husband continued to have different sex partners.' What made her plight worse was that she had no one to talk to - Chinese society frowned on airing such problems outside the family. 'And my parents were too old. Telling them would have been too much for them to take.' 'I couldn't sort out a solution. And if I divorced my husband, I would lose my financial support. I had no savings at all. How could I take care of three children on my own?' Mrs Lo said. Besides, all her attempts to get a job failed because employers felt she was too old. Finally, she turned to Caritas for help. Ms Kwok, from the Caritas support group, said Mrs Lo's case was only the tip of the iceberg. 'We had several women who had tried to commit suicide before they came to our centre. Some tried to hurt themselves, their husbands or the mistresses. Others were physically abused by their husbands as a result of frequent quarrels,' Ms Kwok explained. Forced to share their husbands with women across the border, many local wives now want the Hong Kong Government to intervene. And last Friday, legislator Eric Li Ka-cheung further highlighted the issue when he made a controversial suggestion that legislation should be introduced to deter Hong Kong men from having mistresses on the mainland. The Health and Welfare Branch will further discuss the problem with the Legislative Council's welfare services panel at the start of next month; in the meantime, however, officials maintain that they will not act until they have conducted a full investigation of the cases being handled by various voluntary organisations in the territory.