Some people sulk or binge-eat after a break-up. Others use being ditched as an excuse to pick up a new hobby. But in China it’s not unknown for for ex-girlfriends – and sometimes, ex-boyfriends – to ask for money.
Break-up fees have emerged in recent years as a kind of compensation for the rupture of a long-term relationship. Unlike divorce settlements there is nothing legally binding about the payments, but more often than not, it is the person that ends the relationship that pays the fee. The compensation is typically negotiated around the length of time the partner has invested in the relationship, as well as the emotional distress the break-up has caused. Traditionally, it is the male who does the compensating. The assumption is that the man must make good financially on “wasting” his partner’s time, who will now have to start over in finding a husband.
But what if you don’t want to pay a break-up fee? There have been instances where jilted partners have threatened former lovers with airing their dirty laundry at workplaces or online if they don’t pay up. Others have taken their cases to the courts when the promised payments don’t materialise.
It is against this background that the very public separation between the actor Wu Xiubo and his longtime mistress Chen Yulin has become the talk of social media.
The relationship between the two became public when the little known actress Chen, 30, revealed on WeChat last September that she had been having an affair with the 50 year-old married man for the past seven years.
In her post, Chen alleged that she was supposed to be a part of his hugely popular TV series, The Advisors Alliance (see WiC374) in 2017, but that Wu eventually talked her out of appearing, citing poor filming conditions.
Still, she stayed with him throughout the filming of the drama. They lived in Hengdian for almost a year – where she claims she cooked, did his laundry and looked after him. But Chen later found out the real reason Wu didn’t want her on the show was because he was cheating on her with several other women, including his co-star, actress Zhang Zhixi.
She later accused Zhang of “harassing” her, which made her fall into a depression (Zhang subsequently denied having been involved with Wu or harassing Chen).
Chen’s claim is that she gave up her career and alienated her family so that she could be with the actor. Wu, she alleges, even promised her that they would create a family together. But he ended up “heartlessly” breaking up with her, which led her to go public with their relationship.
The story took a lot of people by surprise as Wu had been intensely private about his personal life (his 2002 marriage to He Zhenya only became public knowledge relatively recently, for instance).
But thankfully for Wu, the scandal seemed to blow over, partly because Chen suddenly went silent.
Then last week her parents went public with the reason their daughter had gone quiet. Taking over their daughter’s weibo account, they wrote in a post that that Chen had been imprisoned and was awaiting trial for extortion. They claimed that Wu had filed a report with the police that their daughter was blackmailing him over the break-up fee. Her parents added Chen could serve up to a decade in prison if she is charged and found guilty.
Wu then released a statement from his lawyer claiming that Chen’s parents were “factually incorrect” and last Saturday Wu’s wife finally broke her silence, alleging that Chen and her family had been repeatedly demanding money from the couple.
She wrote: “The other party has time and again been extorting money, starting with just a few millions to tens of millions [of yuan],” she wrote. “We did everything to cooperate, we tried our best to tolerate… But the other party only got more aggressive. We couldn’t take it anymore. What we have to safeguard is not just our reputation and wealth, but our family and our right to live a normal life.”
Rumours began to circulate that Chen and her family asked for Rmb6 million ($883,830) break-up fee. But after the actor agreed to pay it, Chen demanded another Rmb3 million. Before she came back to China from an overseas ‘recuperation’ trip, she allegedly contacted Wu asking for Rmb100 million more. When she arrived back in China she was jailed.
While the case could end up in front of a judge, the battle is currently being waged in the court of public opinion. And netizens – pondering the decorum of modern infidelity – seem to think that Wu has crossed some sort of line by sending his mistress to jail. “Young women, see clearly now: after you have been sucked dry by the old man, you lose all your youth and worse, see what happens to you now? They [older men] are all sly old foxes,” one wrote.
“While we can agree that a woman like Chen is bad news, Wu Xiubo putting her in prison is just immoral, ungentlemanly and cold-blooded,” another agreed.
Wang Sicong, the son of Wanda billionaire Wang Jianlin and no stranger to racy headlines about his own playboy lifestyle, chimed in as well. “To spend six or seven years with a man only to exchange him for six to seven years in prison. This is just great,” he wrote sardonically.
© ChinTell Ltd. All rights reserved.
Sponsored by HSBC.
The Week in China website and the weekly magazine publications are owned and maintained by ChinTell Limited, Hong Kong. Neither HSBC nor any member of the HSBC group of companies ("HSBC") endorses the contents and/or is involved in selecting, creating or editing the contents of the Week in China website or the Week in China magazine. The views expressed in these publications are solely the views of ChinTell Limited and do not necessarily reflect the views or investment ideas of HSBC. No responsibility will therefore be assumed by HSBC for the contents of these publications or for the errors or omissions therein.