While discussions about extramarital affairs and domestic violence are underway, Chinese legal experts are confronted with another problem: Should the ever popular "virtual affairs" be covered by the new Marriage Law in the making?
With the popularization of personal computers (PCs) and Internet services in China, a growing number of people are involved in "on-line love affairs" and "on-line marriages."
Chinese media are carrying a disputed story that a man named Cheng in the east China city of Nanjing found his newly wedded wife fall in love with another man in virtual community. He feels hurt and wonders, "Can the law restrict such extramarital affairs, even if they are on-line?"
Answers to this question vary. "On-line marriage" lacks both substance and legal proceedings, so it is not marriage by law, said Qian Zhi in the Weishide Law Firm in Jiangsu Province. This phenomenon goes against social ethics, and thus nothing but morality can do something about it, he said.
But Zhou Lianyong, a lawyer with the Boshida Law Firm of Jiangsu, said that virtual affairs can be classified as "the situation leading to the breakdown of mutual affections inside a marriage," which is prescribed by amendments to Marriage Law.
The amendments were publicized by the National People's Congress Standing Committee to solicit public opinions on the revision to the country's 20-year-old Marriage Law. Although an on-line marriage happens in virtual space, once it affects domestic life, a petition for divorce can be approved, Zhou said.
Xie Zhaohua, a noted lawyer in Beijing, maintained that on-line love affairs are just a game, but this game is challenging traditional ethics and family values, and will definitely weaken family relations. To him, such on-line affairs should be covered by the law.