An expensive private club in Shanghai was busted after word got out online of how one of its male escorts received dozens of luxurious gifts from one of his female patrons on his birthday.
“The club was shut down by the police force on Saturday,” an officer from a station in the neighbourhood said, without elaborating.
According to a post about Perfect Space that went viral on WeChat on Friday, one of its escorts celebrated his 28th birthday with 28 gifts from a rich woman.
These included an Audi, a gold cup and 280,000 yuan (US$41,589) in cash.
A photo in the post purported to show wrapped gift boxes piled on the floor, occupying half the room. Digging by intrigued internet users revealed more about the club. Its official website says it is a “private club for women, located in Shanghai’s most prosperous downtown area”.
It sprawls across 1,600 square metres and has 19 “VIP boxes”, the website claimed. “We promise to live up to your status. We are fashionable and luxurious with a line-up of stars.”
Photos on the website show the word “love” spelled in dazzling pink neon lights lining a hall in the club, complete with balloons and bouquets, as well as a statue of a white horse at the entrance.
The club’s name in Chinese translates as “white horse” but it also uses the name Perfect Space.
Internet users claimed a recruitment notice was posted on Perfect Space’s official Weibo account in 2016 about an expansion plan that required the emergency hiring of “commercial male models”.
Would-be employees were promised at least 1,000 yuan (US$148) in tips every time they entertained a patron and at least 80,000 yuan (almost US$12,000) in monthly salary.
In comparison, China’s National Bureau of Statistics last Friday defined people who earned between 2,000 (US$296) and 5,000 yuan (US$740) a month as “middle income” earners – a monthly wage that equals roughly 8 per cent of what Perfect Space paid its models.
The job requirements by Perfect Space stated that candidates must be more than 180cm (5.9 feet) tall, handsome, fashionable, clean and cheerful.
“The work is easy and relaxing, it’s as simple as escorting guests to drink and talk, no illegal activity involved,” the notice said.
A photo featuring two rows of topless men in the club’s hallway greeting members was attached.
The club has been the topic of discussion online for a mostly female audience. The hashtag “Is rich women’s love always this direct?” has been read more than 400 million times and prompted more than 680,000 posts.
“Sisters, if you become rich in the future, please do not forget me,” one user wrote on Weibo. “Please take me to Perfect Space to broaden my horizons.”
Another Weibo user wrote that she was motivated to work harder and become successful to afford visits to places such as Perfect Space.
Although the club was located in the heart of Shanghai’s business district, it was unclear how it had gone unnoticed by police for years until last week.
“People go to these clubs for an emotional need,” a Nanjing-based woman told the South China Morning Post. “Not something as blatant as sex.”
She said she had heard about a club called North Pole Sea Wolves in Nanjing. A search of the internet yielded photos of men in tuxedos and bow ties giving the thumbs-up against the background of crystal chandeliers.
Public records showed that Perfect Space was registered with the name Shanghai Wangzhongde Dining services in 2012, with registered capital of 200,000 yuan. It listed “karaoke” and “dining” as operations.
The owner, Shen Jian, has 10 other companies, including a bar in Nanjing and a coffee house in Shandong province.
A man surnamed Bai, who claimed to be a former employee, told Beijing Youth Daily on Saturday that the birthday party had taken place but that it did not rank as one of the biggest such parties in the club.
He said there had been more ostentatious displays of wealth at the club than the one revealed online at the weekend.
Bai said all the employees in the club were men, so they can focus on catering to an all-female clientele.
There was, he claimed, a high level of spending in line with what one online post claimed was a need for customers “to have assets of more than 20 million yuan”.
He said the club is part of an entertainment business called Noah’s Ark Cultural Group.
The cheerleading and support on social media contrasted with reaction to a similar tale in 2010, when Beijing nightclub Tianshang Renjian (House in the Sky) was shut for employing hostesses.
In a late-night raid, Beijing Chaoyang police shut four clubs, including House in the Sky, for six months, arresting 557 hostesses. House in the Sky has since become a synonym for high spending and promiscuous lifestyles.
Perfect Space has deleted most of its posts on Weibo and WeChat since the story broke, leaving behind bland photos and posts.
The club did not answer calls for comment.