A wife, right, steps on her husband's mistress, sitting, while the husband, left, tries to stop the fight on a street in Henan. Extramarital affairs are the core business of China's private detective agencies. (File Photo/CFP)While most people were busy celebrating, dining, shopping and dating on Christmas Eve this year, most private detective companies in China will have been doing what they usually do — investigating extramarital affairs.
The private detective industry in China has developed in fits and starts. In 1992, the first private detective firm was established in Shanghai. It was closed the next year after the Public Security Bureau banned the establishment of private detective agencies by institutions or individuals.
In October 2002, detective agencies and private bodyguards were included for the first tme in the list of products and services with a registered trademark published by the State Bureau for Industrial and Commercial Administration.
Today there are 20 detective agencies of various levels in the city of Wuhan in the central Chinese province of Hubei. Their main business includes marriage and business investigations, as well as searching for people and addresses. They charge over 10,000 yuan (US$1,580) for each case, with higher fees for business cases.
Industry experts attribute the high fees to the time required — usually more than one week — to gather evidence for an investigation. Time is also required to devise a scheme for how to approach the case. Furthermore, buying information from telephone, mobile phone, internet and intercom companies, not to mention banks, is expensive.
Heavy traffic on Christmas Eve as large crowds thronged the city's malls for shopping also made it difficult for detectives to carry out their tasks.
An industry expert in Wuhan surnamed Ding said that since it was much more difficult to gather evidence on Christmas Eve than at other times, additional fees would be charged for cases on that day. Asked whether business would be equally brisk during Valentine's Day, several detective agencies said it wouldn not, since nobody would risk being caught on the special day.
An employee surnamed Cheng at a business information consulting company in Wuhan said winter was not the peak season for investigating of extramarital affairs, mainly because the colder weather is less conducive to dating. However, Cheng said that as Chinese New Year approaches, the company's business was thriving, with nearly 10 cases coming in per month.
Larger private detective agencies usually take on a lower number of extramarital affair cases during the New Year and the Chinese New Year holidays, because these traditional holidays are mainly for family reunions, thus philandering husbands tend to play it cool and make sure they spend the time with their families, not their lovers.