China's scorned mistresses take revenge on 'corrupt lovers'
- 10 October 2013
- From the section China
Lust, power and corruption can make for an explosive mix. An unlikely whistle-blower for President Xi Jinping's much publicised crackdown on official corruption has emerged - the scorned mistress.
In recent weeks their public accounts have offered a rare glimpse of the extravagant lifestyles of the Communist Party elite, enraging the Chinese public.
The most high-profile case is that of Ji Yingnan - a mistress who shamed her former lover in the full glare of China's hundreds of millions of microblog users.
Sensationally, the 26-year-old identified him as Fan Yue, a deputy director at the State Administration of Archives.
This summer Ms Ji posted videos and pictures of the couple on the internet. There were pictures of the couple enjoying shopping sprees, splashing about in a private swimming pool, and at a party where the official asked his mistress to marry him.
According to Ms Ji's account, she exposed her boyfriend after discovering he was married with a teenage son.
"I had no idea he was such a liar," Ms Ji, the TV presenter, told the Global Times, a Chinese newspaper.
"He always promised to marry me and I always thought he would be my fiance, or even husband."
But what shocked the public were the staggering sums of cash involved. According to the mistress, her lover gave her more than a $1,000 (£600) a day in pocket money, a luxury car and promises of an apartment.
She told the Global Times that she initially reported Mr Fan to the authorities, believing he was involved in corruption. But she said she never received a reply and then decided to post her allegations online.
The details of her lavish lifestyle raised the obvious question: how could her lover afford all this on a modest government salary?
According to the state-run news agency, Xinhua, Mr Fan was sacked from his job in June and is now being investigated over the corruption allegations. The BBC could not reach Mr Fan for comment.
One of the main sites that posted the revelations is run by Zhu Ruifeng, an anti-corruption blogger. He shot to prominence last year after posting an explosive sex tape starring a government official, Lei Zhengfu, which triggered a corruption investigation, ultimately landing the official in jail.
With the growing power of the internet, details that would have once remained private are now leaking into the public domain.
Sex scandals, of course, happen in all countries. But the difference in China, says Mr Zhu, is that government officials are using public money to pay for their love lives.
"In China nothing is clear," he says, "The public don't know what officials are up to. But mistresses live with government officials, they spend their money, they know about everything that goes on.
"When a mistress stands up, the truth comes out."
A powerful energy official, Liu Tienan, was sacked from his post in May after his former mistress told a journalist that her lover had helped defraud banks of $200 million.
Mistresses have become the ultimate symbol of corruption in China. According to a government report in 2007, an astonishing 90% of top officials brought down by corruption scandals had kept a mistress - and in many cases they had more than one.
Former Railways Minister Liu Zhijun, jailed for corruption earlier this year, reportedly kept 18 mistresses.
I met a 26-year-old who told she me was once a mistress. With her long, black hair and designer clothes, she looked like she had just stepped off a catwalk.
She did not want to be identified, but told me her lover was a top company executive. She says that she witnessed corruption.
"Businessmen and officials work together very closely," she said. "A government official asked my boyfriend for a favour. But this time, he didn't want money. He wanted my boyfriend to get him a mistress."
Mistresses are nothing new in China. Emperors were renowned for keeping concubines. But China's top sexologist, Li Yinghe, believes that many Chinese men believe they are still living in imperial times.
"I think many Chinese men have an emperor's complex," she says. "Being an emperor means you can have many women. This is something they are proud of. They see women as trophies of their success."
Little wonder then that the ruling Communist Party is now trying to stop its pillow talk becoming public.
In May, the People's Daily newspaper - the mouthpiece of the party - ran an editorial saying that the country cannot count on mistresses to expose corruption.
"Some [mistresses] directly solicit bribes or seek huge illegal profits," it said. "To pin anti-corruption hopes on them is to go in for evil attacking evil."
In recent weeks, authorities have also introduced tougher measures to control the internet - where many of the revelations have emerged. It is clear that the party wants to draw a veil over its most intimate secrets.