China Issues Stricter Guidelines For Dating Websites Following Entrepreneur’s Suicide

China
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On September 7, Su Xiangmao, the 37-year-old multi-millionaire entrepreneur behind a Skype-like app called WePhone, jumped to his death from the 15th floor of his Beijing apartment building. He left digital suicide notes on Google Plus and Sina Weibo, as well as a disturbing welcoming message on WePhone: "Company owner is forced to death by his evil wife Zhai Xinxin, and the app will stop working." The message included Zhai's phone number and her national ID information.

Su’s notes told a tragic tale of marriage gone wrong. He met his 29-year-old ex-wife in March on Jiayuan.com, China’s largest online dating website, where both were VIP members with "verified" personal profiles. In the months that followed, Su spent 13 million yuan ($1.96 million) on Zhai, showering her with gifts like a Tesla Model X and a seaside apartment in South China's Hainan Province. They married in June.

One month later, they divorced. Su agreed to pay Zhai 10 million yuan as part of their settlement. If he failed to do so, he wrote, Zhai threatened to report his business, which operated in a legal grey area, and his tax evasion to police.

By the time of his death, with the official deadline for paying the remaining settlement sum looming large, Su still owed 3.4 million yuan. "My cash flow is broken. I'm in despair," he wrote.

The entrepreneur's dramatic death has sparked heated discussion throughout China, with some anonymous social media users claiming they too had been “Zhai's prey," and others setting out on a vigilante mission to prove she’s a "professional marriage-for-money predator."

Three central state departments - the Communist Youth League, the Ministry of Civil Affairs, and the National Health and Family Planning Commission - have called for stricter regulations to clean up the country’s matchmaking industry. They introduced new guidelines that crack down on illegal practices often utilised by for-profit dating sites, and issued a joint directive requiring real-name registration for clients on online dating platforms.

China’s revised cybersecurity law took effect June 1. Jiayuan.com led the charge by asking users to sign up with their phone numbers, which are linked to citizens’ national ID numbers. The company also called on local marriage registration centers to share information with each other to help mitigate cases of marital deception, and said it would share its record of blacklisted users with competitors.

The new measures are not foolproof - a reporter from The Beijing News used a photoshopped ID to bypass Jiayuan’s new system - but it’s a step in the right direction for a country whose dating sites have been plagued by romance frauds for years.