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Trained to protect the rich

By Wang Fei (Global Times)

09:38, September 01, 2011

Ayoung man sank into a sofa in the corner of an office, eating a big takeout meal during another hot Beijing summer afternoon.

"I have just finished the training sessions," said Hu Junjie, a weary and exhausted 21-year-old.

Hu, a former artilleryman with the People's Liberation Army (PLA), is from a small city in East China's Anhui Province. He returned to the capital after attending a one-month intensive training camp for bodyguards along the beach of an island off the coast of Nandaihe in Hebei Province.

The camp is the first of its kind in China since the country lifted the ban on private security services last year, amid a booming market for bodyguards among China's upper class.

"There is a great demand for bodyguards in China," said Yang Yongmo, spokesman for Genghis Security Advisor Ltd, (GSA) in Beijing, a company that specializes in providing exclusive bodyguard services as well as the organizer of the training camp.

Intensive training

Hu began his military career as an artilleryman with the PLA in December 2008 right after he graduated from high school. He left the army after he completed his two-year service in December of last year.

Hu paid about 11,300 yuan ($1,770) to attend the bodyguard training camp, which posts recruitment advertisements on the Internet. Forty-two people including six women attended the training camp that kicked off on August 1.

The grueling physical training included such tasks as dragging a log for three kilometers, carrying a tire for five kilometers, doing push-ups in the water, and learning the same combative techniques used in the Israeli army.

"The training here is much easier than what I went through in the army," said Hu. "While here at the camp I once knocked down two trainees at the same time."
However, the other aspiring bodyguards do not share Hu's opinion.

"The 21-day intensive training program has just started. The first day is already hard enough. I feel like I have already experienced several days of training. It's 10 pm. and I'm very sleepy, but night training doesn't end until midnight," one trainee wrote in his notebook found at the GSA's office.

"During the training program candidates were only allowed five hours of sleep, and there were often emergency musters that only allowed them to sleep for one or two hours," said Hu.

According to the spokesperson, one person failed a test and was dismissed while another two people quit within the first week. During the rigorous course the trainees were taught essential bodyguard skills such as how to identify threatening people, how to protect clients, and tips on proper business manners.

Booming market

Chen Yongqing, director of GSA, was a specially trained solider for five years. In 2007 he became a bodyguard.

After noticing various problems in the management of one company where some bodyguards abused violence and lacked the basic education required to be a bodyguard, he decided to start GSA in August 2008, a company that exclusively provides bodyguard services to high-profile clients.

Increasing security concerns among China's upper class are now creating a niche market for bodyguard services.

According to statistics from the China Security Association, there are over 3,000 security companies on the Chinese mainland that employ 3.5 million people.
But the bodyguard industry had long been a gray industry. On March 1, 2000 the Ministry of Public Security ordered that security companies could not provide private bodyguard protection services.

The ban was lifted the New Year's Day 2010, when the government issued new security service regulations.

"Every month 15 to 20 of our staff members get a one-year contract. And we have worked at the Shanghai Expo and Guangzhou Asian Games," Yang said.

According to the Hurun Wealth Report 2010, China has 960,000 individuals with a personal wealth of 10 million yuan ($1.567 million) and 60,000 people worth 100 million yuan ($15.67 million) each. Beijing is home to 170,000 millionaires.

People.com.cn, the official website of People's Daily, reported that 15 billionaires have been killed in the past eight years while 17 committed suicide and seven died of accidents.

GSA worked with the Israel-based International Security Academy (ISA), opened a three-month experimental camp on March 21 this year and recruited 32 members, five of whom were women.

ISA dispatched some coaches and GSA also has its own teachers. "The laws are different among the two countries. They can carry guns but we cannot. We need to adjust the teaching methods to fit real situations in China," said Yang.

"Bodyguards do not always wear black suits. More often they are disguised as drivers or secretaries, so they need to know business etiquette. We prefer to call them security consultants," he added.

The company revealed the annual salary for a bodyguard is 280,000 yuan ($43,900), while top bodyguards who can speak three foreign languages earn as much as 800,000 yuan ($125,360).

Hu said that he has no plans for his future and does not know whether he will indeed become a bodyguard.

"I may be a salesman to promote the training camp to students at sports schools and to former soldiers. I've heard I can make good money doing that," he said.

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