Let judicial authorities pursue marriage fraud

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/20 21:33:40

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT


Editor's Note

On September 7, Su Xiangmao, founder of the Skype-like WePhone app, leaped to death from his Beijing home after allegedly receiving repeated threats from ex-wife Zhai Xinxin. Zhai reportedly demanded more than 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) and properties from their one month of marriage. In the note left by Su, he accused his ex-wife of lying when they met through jiayuan.com, a popular matchmaking site, on March 30. The case has triggered mounting online criticism and searches for Zhai. On Monday, Chinese authorities issued guidelines for closer monitoring of the matchmaking industry including real-name registration on dating websites. How should we properly deal with marriage fraud? How should matchmaking sites be regulated? The Global Times collected three opinions on this issue.

Righteous anger needs tempering

According to media reports, Yi Shenghua, Zhai Xinxin's legal adviser, warned on Monday that people or media who spread rumors about Zhai should cease and desist by midnight, September 18; otherwise Zhai will start to collect evidence of rumormongering and pursue legal means to protect herself against damage to her reputation.

After Su's death, some people, owing to their kindness and respect for righteousness, were angered by Zhai's behavior and criticized her on moral grounds. Their response was understandable. However, in a country upholding principles of the rule of law, there must be limits and boundaries in the public fight for justice. If the public directly infringes on others' lawful rights in the guise of upholding justice, their acts contravene the law.

What legal responsibility Zhai should shoulder will be investigated by police and determined by the decision of the court weighing the facts and the law. The reliability of online information about her may not be recognized by the court.

Prior to the court's final decision on Zhai's case, she is only a criminal suspect who may be involved in marriage fraud. Therefore at present she is still a citizen with basic rights conferred by law and no one can deny this. Even if she is identified as a criminal in the future, she still enjoys basic rights.

Some outraged Internet users have criticized Zhai and tried online to locate her, revealing her private information and invading her legal rights.

What's more, regardless of the court's future verdict on Zhai, she has the right to appoint a lawyer to defend herself. And it is also the lawyer's professional responsibility to accept that appointment and defend a client. In criminal cases, even though defendants do not appoint lawyers, courts will appoint a lawyer to protect defendants' rights. A lawyer's professional ethics require him or her to try his or her best to protect their client's rights. It goes against the modern legal spirit that we rail against Zhai's attorney out of hatred toward her.

For Su's death, the public may criticize Zhai from a moral perspective, but they should stick to the bottom line of the law. They cannot infringe on Zhai's legitimate rights. That runs counter to justice. We should believe in our country's justice system and leave legal issues in the hands of judicial departments.


Website is to blame for tragic suicide

The website jiayuan.com is the origin of Su's tragedy. Su and Zhai were both VIP members and the couple met online, as certified by the site itself.

This means the site should have offered accurate information about Zhai to Su. But Zhai's personal information, including her birth date and marital status, was false.

Honesty is of vital importance in love and marriage. As a dating agency, jiayuan.com should have realized its significance. Nevertheless, it did not pay much attention to the authenticity of client information or plugging loopholes.

Su's case is not an isolated one. Other dating sites like baihe.com and zhenai.com have similar problems. In cases like Su's, dating sites like jiayuan.com are to blame.

After Su's suicide, marriage fraud has received a lot of public attention. Many feel marriage fraud is shameful.

On the one hand, they hate the swindlers. On the other, they despise the victims and believe they themselves would never be cheated. This is the general mind-set of our society.

However, this mind-set precisely leads to marriage fraud. Since the first marriage fraud of 2008, in which a gang used false dating advertisements to attract clients and defrauded them of more than 2.89 million yuan ($439,000), the trend has grown over the last nine years with offline marriage fraud transferring online.

Swindlers are usually smarter than we think. It is the responsibility of the dating site, as the service provider, to improve service and strengthen verification of users' personal information.

These companies tend to ignore the mounting online criticism of their loopholes, as demonstrated by jiayuan.com's response to Su's case.

With Su, jiayuan.com first announced that it would cooperate with the police investigation. Subsequently, the site responded that Zhai did not intend to cheat Su and her personal information would be verified, trying to shift responsibility which, in turn, only ignites the public hatred.

With marriage fraud increasing through irresponsible dating sites, the public must play a more important role in combating marriage fraud. They must enhance their vigilance.


Social credit system can solve problems

Su's suicide has triggered fierce debate about jiayuan.com, a popular dating agency thrust center stage by Chinese media.

Internet users' overwhelming criticism of Su's wife Zhai has thrown a spotlight on marriage fraud at dating sites, creating urgent calls to ban such sites. On top of jiayuan.com, there are other sites like baihe.com, zhenai.com and youyuan.com with similar cases. Su's case reveals a worrying lack of regulation of Internet companies as well as their own ignorance about their own responsibilities.

These agencies were originally supposed to reduce information asymmetry. But dating sites have simply exploited asymmetry for profit.

The developing Chinese dating market contributed to the formation of the dating industry, with the emergence of online dating sites.

But online dating sites to a large extent regard marriage as a trade. They proffer a deformed pattern that revives the matchmaking patterns of olden days and reflects people's distrust of love and marriage in modern society.

Using money to buy love is risky. Su might have chosen to believe in the market system and believed jiayuan.com offered guaranteed high-quality service after receiving his money. He did not realize the lack of regulation or the site's lack of self-regulation.

Whether it's sanitation issues arising out of fast-food takeout platforms or marriage fraud from dating sites, false online information is a prominent problem for Internet platforms.

How best to regulate them? In addition to laws and regulations, the establishment, improvement and deployment of a social credit system might be a good way. We can use third-party credit platforms like Sesame Credit, a social credit scoring system developed by Ant Financial Services Group, to rate users and service providers involved.

Without external regulation, self-regulation is hardly effective at all.

A more efficient and safer Internet environment can only be set up through market supervision, improved access rules and Internet laws.


Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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