Aug 27, 2013

    Adultery site cashes in on HK divorces

    THE founder of a dating service promoting adultery says he expects his service to be wildly popular after a controversial launch in Hong Kong, citing high divorce rates in the Chinese city.

    In 2011, for every 100 couples who got married, 30 other couples got divorced, twice as many as in 1991. The number of divorce cases hit a record high of 21,125 last year.

    "It is a reality of life, we are an unfaithful society," said Mr Noel Biderman, the founder of the Ashley Madison "married dating" service.

    With its slogan "Life is short. Have an affair", the website boasts more than 20 million users in over 15 countries.

    It has been expanding aggressively, adding Japan and India last year. On Friday it launched in Hong Kong, where religious and family-planning groups have come together to criticise its message.

    Mr Biderman said he nevertheless expected his service to be "wildly popular" in the southern Chinese city, noting that the website received around 320,000 Hong Kong hits in the past year, without it spending anything on marketing.

    "That to us indicates massive appetite for this specific product," Mr Biderman said.

    Hong Kong is "in transition when it comes to relationships and marriage and that can lead to an interesting environment".

    User "mamama222" was one of the first in Hong Kong to sign up. "I'm looking for various men to fulfil what my husband can't," she said on her profile.

    In catering to such motivations, Ashley Madison has attracted plenty of criticism from religious groups and social workers.

    "We must do everything we can to uphold the values and the stability of" marriage and family, Hong Kong Catholic Diocese's Reverend Lawrence Lee said.

    "This is disrupting marriage and family, what good can it come to?" he added, noting that Chinese people had "great respect for marriage and family".

    However, Dr Lam Ching-man, a professor of social work at Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the concept of marriage in the city is becoming increasingly "fragile".

    "Hong Kong people are facing lots of challenges," Dr Lam said, adding that couples have to deal with an increasing financial burden and other social stresses.