Cupid's arrow might be out there but ready to do more harm than good.
Twenty-five women looking for foreign spouses through two dating agencies in Guangzhou have joined hands to disclose what they believe to be cheating by the firms, according to a report in the Southern Metropolis Daily.
Hoping to find a second love after her husband died, Yang Xiuling, 54, registered at the Guangzhou Tianyuan Matchmaking Service Agency in May.
She was persuaded to have a go at finding a foreign husband after paying 280 yuan (US$35) to register. A month later, she was asked to pay another 4,000 yuan (US$493) as the agency had arranged a date for her with a "rich foreigner," simply named Michel.
She said she paid more than 8,000 yuan (US$986) to date the so-called right person but later learned that Michel was just an American college student.
Another 24 women aged from 30-50 years old, including those who had registered at the Guangzhou-based Ming'aoyuan Matchmaking Service Agency, have also complained about their experiences.
They have been persuaded to pay a total of more than 400,000 yuan (US$49,321) to date foreigners, the daily reports.
But sources with the Guangzhou Municipal Commercial and Industrial Bureau said these two agencies were only registered to hook up people from within the country.
There are no regulations relating to the supervision and management of such dating agencies.
Many of them promise to find a customer a spouse within a certain amount of time. But legal experts said this is cheating because it gives people false hopes. Such a contract is invalid if it cannot be realized, lawyers said.
Some agencies promise the women that when they meet a foreigner and plan to get married, the agency can get them a visa to go abroad. But a visa, of course, depends on the embassy or consulate of the relevant country.
A reporter from the daily newspaper conducted an "underground" investigation early this month, in a bid to find out what was behind the two agencies.
The reporter was apparently told by the Ming'aoyuan agency to pay more than 20,000 yuan (US$2,470) to become a member of the agency and date foreigners.
The southern city of Guangzhou has seen an increasing matchmaking market in recent years as many people have a more tolerant attitude towards love and marriage.
The bureau and the civil affairs department in Guangzhou have warned people who are seeking love through matchmaking agencies to be cautious with contracts.
"The huge market has been a magnet for many, including illegal agencies who cheat customers," an official with the Guangzhou Civil Affairs Bureau said.
But with their increasing social impact, agencies should be closely watched for their self-discipline and professional ethics, the official added.
(China Daily October 24, 2005)