The founder of a dating agency promoting extra-marital affairs has rejected criticism that it could lead to “broken families” in Hong Kong.
Ashley Madison, a website aimed at married individuals with a wandering eye, has had global success in nearly 30 countries worldwide. It now aims to expand into the Chinese market when it arrives in Hong Kong at the end of the month.
It has already made inroads into Asia after its successful launch in Japan - where a million members signed up within its first two months of operation.
However, the cheats’ charter now faces some opposition from angry church groups and family value organisations in Hong Kong. They say the company’s promotion of adultery is unethical and immoral.
Reverend Lawrence Lee, the Chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong, told the South China Morning Post the website would be harmful to the family as a social institution.
“Without trying to moralise, [the website founder] is treating something as serious as marriage very casually,” he said.
“Family life and fidelity in marriage are essential for the well-being of our society. If you weaken that foundation it is harmful to society.“
Lee also criticised Ashley Madison founder and chief executive Noel Biderman for his comments on creating a dating platform for people looking to commit adultery.
“If students were addicted to drugs - would you promote the sale and access to them more easily? Of course not. It is not a justification.
Mayte Yeung Kit Wah of religious group The Society for Truth and Light said extra-marital affairs “should not be encouraged”.
“Not only will it lead to the unforgettable damage in marriage by which trust and commitment will be destroyed, it will also jeopardise the relationship between spouses and also with their children,” she said.
“Broken families have become a major family problem in western societies and gradually in Hong Kong and the cost is always borne by society as a whole.
“As we believe marriage should be a commitment for a couple to be faithful to each other, it is not ethical and moral for a commercial entity to launch a website to encourage extra-marital affairs through dating.”
Anton Wan, general secretary of the Family Value Foundation Hong Kong, told the Post that couples in Hong Kong “should pay special attention to the overwhelming temptations of affairs from the cyber world”.
“The potential harm of this kind of dating website to the permanence of marriage is obvious without doubt. Even in Hong Kong where an extra-marital affair is not itself a criminal offence, it may have legal results, particularly in cases of divorce.
“This is a good opportunity for Hong Kong couples to be alarmed now by knowing [about] this website’s launch, in order to revisit the marital relationship with their spouse as soon as possible.”
Chan Wing Kai, executive director of social services of the Hong Kong Council of the Church of Christ in China, said the website was “not good for Hong Kong society and people”.
“What we believe in is close marriage between men and women. So of course I do not think it is a good idea to have a website like that and promote it in Hong Kong,” he said.
“We cannot tell people not to visit the website - but our belief is it is not the right thing to do.”
Ashley Madison founder and chief executive Noel Biderman rejected the criticism. He argued that while every country considered itself conservative or religious, people around the world “share the same DNA – and monogamy is not part of it”.
“People had affairs in every country before Ashley Madison arrived. But they had them in the workplace or within their circle of friends – which is much more destructive,” he said.
“We don’t want to convince anyone to cheat, but we can tell them how to have the perfect affair. And that means not only finding the perfect partner, but also not getting caught.
“The church or religion was not able to stop infidelity in the last hundreds of years and instead of pointing a finger and blaming people our religious and spiritual leaders should come from a place of understanding and empathy.”