'Mistress hunters' save marriages in China

The founder of mistress-hunting firm Weiqing, Mr Shu Xin, holding a meeting at his Shanghai office. His firm's mistress hunters are mostly women and are all psychology, sociology or law graduates.
The founder of mistress-hunting firm Weiqing, Mr Shu Xin, holding a meeting at his Shanghai office. His firm's mistress hunters are mostly women and are all psychology, sociology or law graduates.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Wives of cheating husbands in China hire agents to persuade third party to end affair

BEIJING • Do not get mad, get your opponent to surrender voluntarily: When Mrs Wang discovered her husband had been cheating on her for several years, she called in an elite team of "mistress hunters".

Rather than seek a divorce, which could have hit her social and financial standing, she hired a specialist to earn the other woman's trust, and then persuade her to end the extramarital relationship. It was a longstanding affair but once the mistress hunters were called in, it was over within two months.

Mrs Wang said she paid between 400,000 and 500,000 yuan (S$81,000 and S$101,000) for the service. "I think it was worth it, I am satisfied," she added.

The company Mrs Wang used, Weiqing, or "protector of feelings", has 59 offices across the country, and offers free legal advice and lectures. Its founder, Mr Shu Xin, said he has 300 agents.

"My goal is to prevent divorces," he said at his upmarket Beijing headquarters. "Every year, we save some 5,000 couples."

The mistress hunters are mostly women and are all psychology, sociology or law graduates. They spend three years to learn the ropes before they are sent out into the field, where they pose as neighbours, cleaners or even babysitters.

Ms Ming Li, 47, has been doing the job for three years. "I am older than these mistresses, in general, so they listen to me," she said.

"If the mistress goes to a park, to the supermarket or to work, I will 'happen' to meet her. And even if she is the stay-at-home sort... I can claim I have a leak in my apartment and ask for her help. We always find a way to initiate contact."

Divorce rates in China have surged from 1.59 per 1,000 people in 2007 to 2.67 in 2014, according to the Civil Affairs Ministry figures - far higher than in Europe, with France at 1.9 and Italy at just 0.9.

In Beijing, 73,000 couples divorced last year - almost three times the number nine years ago.

Mr Zhu Ruilei, a divorce attorney at Beijing-based law firm Yingke, said: "The reasons? The liberalisation of morals, tensions related to differences between the husband's and the wife's incomes, and incompatible personalities. But also, the desire to pursue personal dreams is stronger than it used to be."

A survey by dating site Baihe.com found that more than 21 per cent of first-time husbands in China have had a mistress, and a similar number - 20 per cent - of wives have had a lover. In nearly 9 per cent of first marriages, both partners have cheated.

Mistresses are poorly regarded in China, where having children out of wedlock remains a social taboo. They are known as "xiaosan", a derogatory term meaning a third person of lower rank than a wife. Sometimes, they fall victim to violent vigilantism.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2016, with the headline ''Mistress hunters' save marriages'. Print Edition | Subscribe