China offers online help for suspicious spouses

China's exploding wealth has created a culture of secret mistresses and second wives. Now officials are putting marriage records online so spouses can check for cheaters.

State media yesterday said Beijing and Shanghai will be among the first places to put marriage databases online this year. The plan is to have records for all of China online by 2015.

But the Ministry of Civil Affairs a few years ago said such a project would be operating by 2010. Officials have not explained the delay, but not all areas have such databases ready yet; ministry numbers show 23 – of 22 provinces, four regions and four municipalities – have them so far.

Bigamy is illegal in China, and corruption inspectors with the ruling Communist Party have said several officials have been guilty of the offence. That includes the former head of the National Bureau of Statistics, Qiu Xiaohua. He was called a "vile social and political influence" and dismissed in 2007.

One study, published in the United States in 2005, said 20 per cent of 1,240 married men surveyed in urban China and 3.9 per cent of 1,275 married women admitted having had an affair in the past 12 months.