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Bitter edge to Valentine's Day
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-02-16 08:55

Valentine's day, originally a sweet time for lovers, has turned into a time for suspicious wives and husbands in China to consider the faithfulnes of their partners.

Many hire investigators to find evidence of extramarital affairs.

The Wanma Law Firm based in Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang Province, did top business again this year in the days leading up to Valentine's Day as married persons asked for help in investigating their partners' fidelity.

Xu Min, Wanma's director in charge of such investigations, said male customers have risen from the previous 30 to 40 per cent of the total, but refused to give the specific number because of the private nature of the business.

Cases accepted by his firm show that husbands under suspicion are usually beyond 35 years old and the target wives were often between 30 to 35 years old.

"The customer group has expanded from wealthy bosses to ordinary people with average incomes, which now take up 70 per cent of the total," Xu said, noting each investigation takes seven to 10 days and costs about 20,000 yuan (US$2,400), five to six times an ordinary person's monthly pay.

Though the newly-emerged business is thriving and highly profitable, private investigators are still reluctant to accept such cases due to the toil of 24-hour catlike tailings and the risk of being beaten up if discovered.

"The results confirm over 80 per cent of the surveyed have extramarital affairs," Xu said.

Love affairs outside marriage have stirred loyalty crises among some Chinese couples. Suspicious spouses find Valentine's Day a good opportunity to catch their other half with their lovers. That, in turn, wins them the upper hand when dividing property in case of a divorce.

Last year, 53,000 couples divorced in Beijing. In Shanghai more than four couples out of every 1,000 divorced, the highest divorce rate in the country and 20 times higher than two decades ago.

Wu Qiantao, an ethics professor with Renmin University of China, considered the loyalty crisis a result of weakening sense of family responsibility.

Doubts over marital fidelity can also be seen in the increasing number of paternity tests recently reported by the Jiangsu Provincial Hospital in East China.

In the week following Spring Festival the paternity test centre of the hospital received nearly 20 families asking for a DNA check.

Since its establishment in May 2001, the centre has handled some 300 such cases and is expected to accept 500 cases this year alone.

Dr Su Enben said more than 90 per cent of applicants were suspicious fathers and the majority of them were wealthy people or migrant rural workers who are usually away from home for long lengths of time to take up urban jobs.

Rich men who have children with their mistresses want to confirm the blood relationship so that they can safely bequeath property to the children, Su said.

Though 85 per cent of the tests have confirmed the legitimacy of the kids, experts still consider it a reflection of unstable family relationships.

Most people who find the children are not theirs, choose divorce.

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