The recent death of WePhone’s founder spurs a huge outcry across Chinese social media.
On September 7, Su Xiangmao, the 37-year-old developer behind the Skype-like app that lets users make international calls at low rates, committed suicide. He left behind a death note detailing the heart-wrenching story of his 29-year-old ex-wife, who he briefly married after meeting on Jiayuan.com—dubbed the Chinese match.com—and who later blackmailed him into paying RMB 10 million (roughly $1.5 million). Su couldn’t afford it and chose to end his life instead.
Outraged netizens are crying foul against the romance frauds that have been running rampant across Chinese dating sites for years. The strict new rule of China’s Cyber Security Law enacted this June has required all social media services to implement real-name registration for users, but the system can still be bypassed. A reporter from local media The Beijing News used a photoshopped ID and photo to test the registration on Jiayuan.com and was approved within a few hours.
Grifters loopholing the system can then take advantage of people earnestly seeking true love. Marriage entrustments are common, where an agent charges a fee when a couple is set up successfully. Scammers in disguise of agents would contract a “lover” to lure the target user into paying several thousands of RMB for a designer bag to millions in Su’s case.
A search query of jiayuan.com in Chinese (世纪佳缘) on itslaw.com, a database recording court decisions, reveals a total of 559 linked criminal cases. The number has been declining since the peak of 157 cases in 2014. This year a total of 48 criminal cases associated with jiayuan.com have been recorded as of this writing.
On September 13, stock prices of Baihe.com, who merged with Jiayuan.com in December 2015, fell nearly 50% to RMB 3.60 on the New Third Board following the tragic suicide.