China gets tough on online dating websites

New guidelines target marital fraud and matchmaking crimes

A couple talk having dinner at a roadside restaurant in Shanghai, on July 29, 2017.

BEIJING • China has taken steps to clean up the online dating scene, with the issuance of guidelines governing dating websites.

Government bodies will coordinate to promote real-name registrations and authentication on dating sites and crack down on marital fraud and other crimes related to matchmaking services, according to the guidelines issued by the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China (CYL), the Ministry of Civil Affairs, and the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

The number of singles in the country remains large, while available online dating platforms come with doubts about authenticity.

"It's a common need of young adults and a big issue in life to fall in love and get married," the guidelines said. "The work related to young adults' love and marriage not only will affect their healthy development but is also related to social stability and harmony."

Vowing to promote trustworthy matchmaking services that will meet the diversified needs of young adults by mobilising non-governmental bodies and social forces, the guidelines also said "there should be more channels for them to voice their needs and comment" on matchmaking services.

With about 200 million unmarried people in the country, the Chinese government has kept marriage on its agenda. The guidelines were drafted to help execute the Middle and Long-Term Youth Development Plan (2016-2025).

Published in April, it was the first 10-year development plan for youth, defined in the plan as those aged 14 to 35. Marriage is one of the 10 categories it covers.

Mr He Junke, a senior official of the CYL Central Committee, said in May that youth organisations, including the CYL, will help young adults tie the knot.

While many netizens gave the government a thumbs-up for its high-profile attention to young people, some say the guidelines are depressing.

"Growing up in the traditional Chinese cultural atmosphere, I also think it's right to get married at the proper time to enjoy a happy family life. But... we may fail to find our Mr Right in time," said 24-year-old Han Yanni, who works for a security company in Beijing.

She said she has been pushed by her parents to get married.

The guidelines just bring more pressure and make her think of herself as a loser, she said.

The guidelines were published after a suicide made headlines for days and triggered widespread concern about the authenticity of dating websites.

On Sept 7, tech entrepreneur Su Xiangmao, 37, killed himself in part because his former wife had hidden the fact that she had been married briefly before, according to the note he left behind. The couple met in March on dating website Jiayuan.

According to the suicide note, the woman told him about her previous marriage just one day ahead of their marriage registration in June.

Mr Su wrote that his wife's character changed after they got married, and they divorced on July 18 after Mr Su agreed to give her a villa in Hainan province and 10 million yuan (S$2 million) she demanded for mental distress.

He added that she also threatened to tell the authorities he had been evading his taxes.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2017, with the headline China gets tough on online dating websites. Subscribe