CHINA - Females account for a growing slice of the country's emergent bodyguard industry and must learn everything from how to endure a bottle over the cranium to tea ceremony etiquette. Xu Lin talks to these tough girls.
Lulu was asleep when the intruder broke in, tied her up, blindfolded her, threw her in a car trunk and drove away. When the 28-year-old awoke in a strange place, she had to free herself from her ropes and find her way home. She succeeded. Lulu had monitored the car's movements from the trunk, noticing when it turned and stopped. It wasn't an actual kidnapping but rather a drill for the bodyguard in training.
The experience sounds unpleasant at best. But Lulu says: "I like my job very much because I'm honoured I can protect others. My personality is a bit tomboyish. And I like to defend others against injustice."
Lulu is among the few female bodyguards at Beijing Bojing Security Agency but one of many women entering the industry.
More than one-third of China's millionaires are females. And they increasingly want someone from their own sex to protect them.
There are 1.05 million multimillionaires and 8,100 billionaires in China, according to the Hurun China Rich List 2013. The average wealth of the 211 female billionaires on the Hurun China's Women Rich List 2013 is 9.6 billion yuan (S$1.96 billion).
These are the clients for whom the country's nearly 3,000 security agencies compete.
The industry was legalized in 2010.
Women often want women bodyguards because they can do such things as following them to the restroom. They create less suspicion, as they often appear to be secretaries or relatives, and don't coax rumours of romantic involvement.
"Some female bodyguards look like drivers or nannies whose professions appear to be looking after parents and children," Kingdom International Bodyguard Co's founder Pan Xianjin says.
"They have certain protection abilities, but women are not as physically powerful as males."
Beijing Bojing Security Agency's CEO Shi Xingfeng explains women are better at keeping lower profiles but not as fierce in combat.
More than 40 females applied for his company's training this year. Three passed the training, but one failed the exam.
Lulu, who joined Bojing in 2011, looks like the girl-next-door with a ponytail and dark shirt. Most of her clients are entrepreneurs or celebrities.
A 26-year-old bodyguard with Shanghai Shenyingtewei Security Consulting surnamed Yu (she withholds her given name for security reasons) says her company's standard for female bodyguards is a height of more than 1.68 meters, and good health, mentality and conduct. Many companies, like Lulu's, require them to remain single, as relationships might distract them from their work. Many are former soldiers or athletes, so they can withstand brutal physical training.