Saving marriages is a lucrative business.
When fortune-teller Ming Li told her female client she knew she was having an affair with a married man, the woman was dumbfounded.
Not missing a beat, Ming urged her to break off the affair, which she did, and fast.
But how had she known of the affair?
It certainly wasn’t her power to read minds, because as Ming tells the South China Morning Post, she’s not really a fortune-teller.
Ming works for Shanghai Weiqing Network Technology. It sounds like a tech firm. But it’s actually an agency of “mistress hunters.”
A little background: About one in every five Chinese husbands (and wives, too) indulges in an affair, according to a survey by dating site Baihe.com. It’s perhaps no surprise that China’s official divorce rate rose 60% from 2007 to 2014.
Weiqing aims to prevent those divorces. Its clients are often married women who suspect their husbands are having a fling on the side. For the scorned wives, affairs are a matter of money as well as love, because Chinese husbands typically provide for their side piece’s rent, bills and luxuries. It adds up.
In 59 offices across China, Weiqing employs therapists to help couples resolve their differences. But nearly all of its revenue (87%) comes from its mistress hunters. These female psychology, sociology or law grads track down mistresses, then meet them under false pretenses.
“If the mistress goes to a park, to the supermarket or to work, I’ll happen to meet her,” Ming tells the Post. Or, if the mistress is a homebody, “I can claim I’ve got a leak in my apartment and ask for her help.” Then she convinces them to break it off.
“I’m older than these mistresses, in general, so they listen to me,” says the 47-year-old.
While all this sounds underhanded, there’s nothing illegal about it.
It’s also lucrative. Weiqing has applied to list on the National Equities Exchange and Quotations (NEEQ), China’s “over-the-counter” stock market. The company earned $2.6 million in the first 10 months of 2016. Mistress hunters charge up to $145 an hour. Some of that money goes to buying jewelry and renting apartments to help them effect false identities.
Founder Shu Xin told the Post his company brokered breakups with 8,552 mistresses in 2014 alone. If a mistress hunter’s efforts fail, Weiqing refunds the client’s money. If they succeed, the typical case costs clients about $7,200, cheaper than many divorces.
And a lot of times it doesn’t come to divorce. After all, Weiqing translates to “protector of feelings” or “defending love.” Shu says his company saves about 5,000 marriages a year, and 350,000 to date.
And what of the mistresses? Ming, at least, tries to bring about a solution that makes all parties happy. She tells the Post, “Sometimes I help the mistress find a boyfriend.”