A man in China has been arrested after giving a make-up mirror with a hidden spycam to a live-streamer as a gift and encouraging her to use it while naked.
The man, surnamed Zhang, from Guangdong province in southern China, is accused of illegally modifying, selling and using hidden cameras. Zhang is a hidden camera expert who runs an online store selling modified candid camera devices, having sold at least 210 similar spycam devices to date.
He was found out when he sent a make-up vanity mirror to a live-streamer surnamed Li who is an acquaintance from his workplace.
Despite only knowing each other for a few months, Zhang convinced Li to accept the mirror as a gift.
Zhang told Li to keep the mirror plugged in and turned on for 24 hours a day, claiming it was to prevent the circuit board from catching on fire.
Li found this claim to be strange but was not overly concerned until Zhang later told her that a feature of the mirror was using it to apply make-up while naked, something which he called 'nude beauty'.
A disturbed Li contacted the product seller who advised her to check if there were cameras placed inside the mirror.
"When I took it apart, I found there were four high-definition pinhole cameras and five 32G memory cards inside," Li said in an open letter she published online.
Li reported her discovery to the local police immediately.
"One of the recordings on a memory card was marked '2019', so I realised I was probably not the first victim," she said.
Li added: "It was lucky that a Bluetooth alarm clock Zhang had planned to send to me was still in transit, otherwise he could have further monitored my life."
After his arrest, Zhang confessed to placing the camera in the mirror and admitted that he had also installed a set of hidden cameras at his ex-girlfriend's home that were still operational.
The story has sparked widespread concern in China about the use of hidden cameras.
One online commenter said: "Zhang even suggested Li to try 'nude beauty', did he want to launch a live-streaming programme of her naked? So scary."
Another said: "The police must go and arrest the other 210 buyers who may also be doing what Zhang did. Oh God, more victims would be found."
According to the Chinese legal service platform Lvtu, taking candid pictures can infringe someone's personal rights but is not necessarily a crime in China. However, under criminal laws, anyone who uses hidden webcams could potentially be prosecuted if found to have broken the law.
In 2019 a local court in southwest China sentenced a man to three and a half years in jail after he installed hidden cameras in a number of hotels and sold the recordings online.
In 2016, a court in Anhui province, southeast China, jailed a man for five years after he threatened a former employee with footage of her in the shower taken using hidden cameras.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.