A dispute over a failed matchmaking service has put the spotlight on marriage scams in China and rules that prevent businesses from connecting foreigners with single Chinese people. Wu Zhimin, a father from Shijiazhuang, the capital city of Hebei province in northern China, said he had turned to a matchmaking service two years ago owned by a man named Chen Junhong because his son was struggling to find a romantic partner . “My friends and relatives introduced my son to women who all demanded that my family provide a house and a car , which our circumstances did not permit,” said Wu in an interview with Hebei Television. “A matchmaker surnamed Chen told me his service could introduce foreign women to my son,” he recalled. On October 8, 2019, Wu signed an agreement with Chen’s agency, which said it would assist Wu’s son in finding a wife for an introduction fee of 150,000 yuan (US$22,200) and demanded a deposit of 30,000 yuan (US$4,446) in advance. According to the contract, if the marriage fell through because the woman did not want to move forward, Chen’s company would return the deposit. But if the arrangement failed because the man did not like the potential matches, the service would deduct its expenses and refund the remaining balance. According to Wu’s receipts, he paid the deposit and then followed it up with payments of 40,000 yuan and 75,000 yuan, for a total amount of 145,000 yuan (US$21,500). “My brother scraped together the funds by borrowing more than 120,000 yuan (US$17,800),” said Wu’s elder brother. The matchmaker then brought the son, Wu Yue, to Indonesia in November 2019 to meet local women, among whom Wu found one he liked and he said the feeling was mutual. “We met three or four times, but I never went to her house because the matchmaker would not let me,” the son said. After the woman agreed to marry him, Wu’s family bought her “the three golds”, a Chinese tradition of buying the bride-to-be a gold bracelet, a pair of gold earrings and a gold necklace. My brother scraped together the funds by borrowing more than 120,000 yuan (US$17,800) Wu’s elder brother However, despite having decorated their house for a wedding, the bride never arrived. It has been two years. “When the matchmaker said the woman could not come to China because of the pandemic and that he could refund us 20,000 yuan (US$3,000), we thought that we might have been duped,” said the father. For his part, the agent Chen is defending himself, saying he has successfully introduced dozens of women to Chinese men and only failed “seven or eight times”. “It would be ideal if we can solve the problem through negotiations,” Chen said of Wu’s case. “If negotiations fail, I can go to court and have the judge decide how much I should pay.” The case is also a reminder that in 1994 the State Council, China’s top administrative authority, issued a notice banning professional matchmaking services in China that target potential partners who are foreign. Chen told Hebei Television he is aware of the law but said it was “to prohibit people from introducing Chinese women to men in Europe and the United States.” The local police have launched an investigation into the dispute to determine if it broke any laws. Wu’s case is not an exception. In 2020, a man from Fujian province was tricked out of more than 80,000 yuan (US$11,900) after marrying a Vietnamese woman surnamed Hu, who fled after three days and turned out to be married to another man. In 2018, Guilin police spent nine months taking down a cross-border marriage fraud syndicate involving 15 people and more than 1.2 million yuan (US$178,000).