The Straits Times today tells us about 27 year old Liu Qian who “has been feted as a modern-day heroine, held up as a role model for women, and won the hearts of thousands across China”. For the past eight years, Liu was the mistress of Yao Chuanrui, a former manager of a Shenzhen-based state-owned company, who had been detained by police for questioning over the alleged embezzlement of RMB70 million.
On receiving an SMS from Yao asking her to help him escape, the plucky mistress and a group of 20 people travelled to Beijing where Yao was being held in an hotel. They bribed a food delivery worker who knew which room Yao was in, and created a disturbance which distracted the guards, giving Yao time to flee. Unfortunately for them, they were all nabbed soon after.
Liu’s attempt to free her lover has “triggered an unexpected flood of support and sympathy in China”. The Straits Times report goes on to quote some interesting comments from Chinese netizens:
‘Unbelievable, she has done something few wives, daughters and mothers would dare to do.’
‘What an outstanding mistress! Liu is the best mistress since the founding of modern China. This is the meaning of true love!’
‘This woman is a rare breed. In the face of trouble, she risked all to stand by her man.’
‘This does not show that Chinese people approve of corrupt officials or that they are confused in their thinking. It reveals a deep need and longing for virtues such as true love and loyalty, and their disappointment with a society where these values have been eroded. Society now is full of schemers, cheats, liars and traitors.’
‘During the Cultural Revolution, people were urged to be loyal to no one except the Communist Party. So sons betrayed fathers, husbands turned against their wives. We are living in its aftermath. It is no wonder that this mistress has won the praise of all. She is the sole example of truth in a society full of hypocrites.’
Some netizens wanted a state television programme to put her on its list of ‘top 10 people who moved China in 2006’ while others pronounced her as a modern-day Xiao Fengxian, who is described in the report as “a famous prostitute in Chinese history who helped her lover Cai’E — a general involved in the 1915 Revolution to overthrow warlord Yuan Shikai — escape imprisonment”.
Also interesting is the quote from sociologist Hu Xingdou who attempts to explain why people were willing to look past Liu’s status as a kept woman or the fact that she broke the law:
‘What they see is a rare display of faithfulness and selflessness. Liu chose to follow her heart. She is a rare example of chivalry, which is a value highly treasured by Chinese people. So, people place her loyalty to love above the law.’
After her sentence, Liu broke down into tears in court and reporters asked her if she had any regrets. Liu, still very much in love, could only say, “There is nothing to regret.”
So what does everyone think? Heroine or criminal?
Image of Liu Qian from The Straits Times.