Wives of gay men in China who had joined an online community have accused the founders of the website of stealing 90,000RMB ($14,160, €11,300) from them.
Fifty-one of the estimated 4,000 members of the website tongqijiayuan.com wrote an open letter to the site’s two founders, Yao Lifen and An Yao.
The founders are accused of failing to deliver counselling services in return for registration fees of at least 1,000RMB ($157, €126) per person, according to Global Times.
‘They dragged their feet when wives asked them to return the money ... and threatened to expose these women as being the wives of gay men,’ said the letter, as reported by China Daily.
The open letter stated that Yao, who divorced her gay husband and launched the website in July 2011, became romantically involved with another of the website’s founders An and stole money from the registration fees.
Speaking to the Southern Metropolis Daily, Yao said that An had cheated her out of 20,000RMB ($2,510, €3,145) and disappeared. ‘I was not involved in these wrongdoings,’ she said.
Professor Zhang Beichuan of Qingdao University, who has researched the phenomenon of ‘tong qi’ or straight women married to gay men, said he had sympathy for Yao.
‘She’s made a great effort to set up and maintain the website, which did help gay men's wives talk to one another, share information and obtain mental counseling services,’ Zhang told China Daily yesterday. ‘And as far as I know, it was Yao herself who reported the case to the local police and who was merely being deceived by her boyfriend.’
In February this year Zhang reported that he estimates there are 16 million ‘tongqi’ in China, stating that 90% of gay men married women due to parental pressure.
Websites such as Tongqijiayuan have sprung up to support and connect ‘tongqi’ who are often isolated and feel they can’t talk to family and friends about their situation.
‘The sheer number of members shows that such a vulnerable group had relatively few resources and channels that they could use to connect to and help one another,’ Zhang said.