Tycoon ups offer to HK$1 billion to marry off daughter


Defying daddy: Gigi Chao

What is it with Chinese property tycoons and their daughters’ sexuality?

In the space of a month, two real estate developers have warned against lesbianism – feared or real – in their own families.

The first was Ren Zhiqiang, the outspoken CEO of the Beijing-based Huayuan Group. In his bestselling autobiography he disclosed that he chose his daughter’s 18th birthday last year to tell her that there are only two rules he wishes her to follow – “no drugs and no homosexual acts”.

“Otherwise, she can do whatever she wants,” Ren wrote, leaving plenty of scope for bad behaviour, by the sound of it.

“What matters the most for parents is granting our children freedom and happiness,” Ren continued.

The other comments on the topic came from Hong Kong billionaire Cecil Chao who has doubled the “dowry” he is offering to any man who can talk his daughter, Gigi, into marriage. Chao told the Malaysian newspaper Nanyang Siang Pau that his first offer of HK$500 million ($64 million) in 2012 had failed to produce a man capable of the task, even though he had received 20,000 applications.

Chao hopes that raising the figure to HK$1 billion might help in finding someone who can persuade his daughter to leave her wife and partner of nine years, Sean Eav.

“I don’t want to interfere with my daughter’s private life,” Chao said. “I only hope for her to have a good marriage and children, as well as inherit my business.”

Gigi – who seems to enjoy an admirably close relationship with her father despite his meddling – responded by telling the South China Morning Post that she would happily befriend any man who donates “huge amounts of money” to her LGBT charity, Faith in Love. It was also important that he didn’t mind “that I already have a wife,” Gigi continued.

But the two incidents have not been taken lightly by rights activists in Hong Kong and the mainland.

In a column entitled ‘If Ren Zhiqiang’s Daughter Were Gay’, the writer Guo Yujie challenged the property mogul’s assertion that he wanted his daughter to be free and happy, given that he appears to have banned her from following her sexual orientation should she turn out to be gay (which, incidentally, she has never said that she is).

“This shows how people actually think about being gay. If it is someone outside the family, parents say they don’t care. But if it is their child they are very controlling and say it is absolutely unacceptable,” Guo wrote on the popular news portal NetEase.

“Being gay does not mean being infertile,” Guo added, in response to Ren’s apparent belief that having a gay child means no chance of grandchildren.

Volunteers working with the Guangdong-based organisation Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays also said that Ren seemed confused. Media reported that the group had even mailed Ren a pamphlet called “Understanding Gays”.

On social media the two cases struck a chord with young, unmarried people of all sexual orientations as they prepared to travel home for Chinese New Year. For singletons it can be an awkward period, as relatives pile on the pressure for them to get married.

“Another year and another round of pressure. Do I need to hire a girlfriend to get my parents off my back,” asked one user of the popular microblogging website Sina Weibo.

Another wrote: “I have only been back one day and my family is already pushing me once again to get married. Even my father, who is normally pretty quiet, is nagging me about it now.”

Another netizen quipped that he was planning to tell his parents that he was gay simply to stop them talking about weddings and babies.

But as Gigi Chao’s experience shows, that doesn’t always work with Chinese parents…

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