Magazine article Newsweek International

Cursing the Concubines

Magazine article Newsweek International

Cursing the Concubines

Article excerpt

Until recently, Mrs. Chan's story was Hong Kong's dirty little secret. The 44-year-old housewife found a stored number on her husband's mobile phone listed as baby wife. When she dialed the number in a city across the border in mainland China, another woman answered. Pretending to be a friend of her husband's, Chan asked who she was. "I'm his wife," came the reply. Chan got a divorce; she overdosed on sleeping pills twice. "I hated myself for living with a lie for so many years," says Chan. "Now I'm coming to terms with it."

Of all the side effects of Hong Kong's economic ties with mainland China, the most damaging may be the least talked about: the mistress phenomenon. As business ties have grown, so have second families. The two worlds were never supposed to meet: Hong Kong men supported women and children in dirt-cheap China, and their Hong Kong wives never had to let on if they knew. A recent high-court ruling threatens to blow the lid off the cozy arrangement by allowing hundreds of thousands of children of Hong Kong parents to immigrate. Though Beijing may yet overrule the court decision, the lie has been exposed. Social workers estimate that as many as 25 percent of married Hong Kong men commit adultery, and many have second wives. "The family is falling apart," says Crystal Kwok, a former radio host who used to take calls from cuckolded women. "The veneer of propriety is being destroyed."

Kwok is about to unmask Hong Kong's adulterous secrets, once and for all. She quit her job a year ago to make a film called "The Mistress," which will be released this summer. …

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