'Guerrilla' wives plot 'eradication' of mistresses

Satoshi Saeki Yomiuri Shimbun Correspondent

BEIJING--Zhang Yu Fen has a warning for Chinese mistresses: Watch your back.

Infuriated by her husband's cheating, Zhang has formed a group with other women dumped by their husbands as a result of their spouses' extramarital affairs that has set its sights on "eradicating" mistresses.

But with corruption rampant among Chinese bureaucrats, the group is likely to come up against corrupt senior officials of the Chinese Communist Party, many of whom are believed to have mistresses.

Zhang, however, is undaunted.

"Unless mistresses are completely wiped out, we won't be able to achieve a harmonious society and will only be left with the menace [such women represent]," said Zhang of Xian, Shaanxi Province. "We, the socially vulnerable, have to get together to eradicate the existence of mistresses."

Zhang, 50, set up the organization in January with 16 other women involved in "battles" against husbands with mistresses.

Zhang has filed 11 suits against her former husband for charges of bigamy after he left her for his mistress in 1997, but her petitions have all been rejected for lack of evidence.

Her divorce was finally granted by a court last year. However, all she won in the settlement was a small house without heating. Her long, arduous struggle made her realize she had a mission to help women suffering the same ordeal, she said.

During the past few years, she has given advice to women in the same predicament and set up a "guerrilla squad for attacking mistresses."

The group's members collect information for upcoming lawsuits and follow people when necessary. As they have even physically assaulted some mistresses, the local media have dubbed them "mistress killers."

According to Chinese media, 95 percent of the bureaucrats charged with corruption have mistresses. Many entrepreneurs reportedly provide bureaucrats with mistresses as bribes.

"Mistresses are always lurking in the shadows of corruption cases," Zhang said. "If you don't have money, you can't hold on to a mistress."

In some of the lawsuits for which Zhang has offered help to women plaintiffs, the husbands involved were judges, senior security officials or held other powerful positions. When the women demanded divorces or the distribution of assets, the husbands physically abused them or even used their official powers to detain them.

In China, where genuine independence of the judiciary and freedom of the press do not exist, such women can be subjected to reprisals with few means for redress. For her part, Zhang always wears dark glasses and carries a small stun gun for self-defense. When walking along the street, she will often use side streets to vary her route and avoid being followed.

Members of Zhang's organization are mainly in their 30s to 60s and come from regions throughout the nation, such as Shandong, Hebei and Guangdong provinces.

In March, Zhang assembled the members for a meeting in Xian at which lectures about the penal code and marriage law were offered to help empower the women with the legal knowledge they need to fight cases. All the members of her group have been abandoned by husbands who have mistresses. Zhang expects they will each look to help women in similar situations in their own regions in the future.

"Our organization aims to punish these husbands and claim the assets we are entitled to," she said, adding that her organization will simply not accept the status quo in which women "cry into their pillows" and accept their plights in silence.

(Apr. 26, 2008)