DESPERATE straight wives who married gay husbands are now accusing an online forum of defrauding them after promising to help them out of their "miserable" marriages.
More than 50 people published an open letter online, saying they were cheated out of more than 90,000 yuan (US$14,176) when they joined the "Homeland for Gay's Wife" site (www.tongqijiayuan.com).
It was China's biggest forum for straight wives to seek help or consolation after finding their husbands were gay.
The forum was reported to have more than 4,000 registered members with tens of thousands of people logging on each day after it caught media attention.
"We straight wives trusted the forum when we were struggling in the mud of our marriages. We are sorry to end up here but we've realized that its owners were taking advantage of our fragile emotions and low social status so they can harm us once more," said the open letter.
According to the letter, the forum was created in July 2011 by a 29-year-old woman, Yao Lifen, who said she was abused by her gay husband and later divorced him.
Yao claimed that the forum would be a nonprofit platform for gays' wives, a newly emerged group in China, to help them divorce their husbands with legal and ethical support.
In the same year as the forum was established, Chinese experts predicted that the country had at least 16 million women who married gay husbands.
But the promised help came at a high price, the letter said. Each member was asked to pay a 1,000 yuan deposit before they were allowed to join to make sure they would not violate the forum's regulations.
For volunteers who wanted to help the group, each was charged a 2,000 yuan deposit and fees to train them abroad, but no courses were ever provided, they said. Straight wives were even asked to pay 150 yuan each month for "psychological guidance classes," but no lessons were offered, the letter said. The forum repeatedly asked for donations, the letter added.
"In the name of a nonprofit welfare platform, Yao and her partner An Yao cheated us," said the letter. "And they cursed victims who wanted their money back and threatened to publish their private information."
The victims said they alerted the police, who said the case is still under investigation. They demanded that the website be shut down and return their money, and made to apologize.
The victims told the Southern Metropolis Daily that Yao had replied to them in a letter that she was also a victim who had been cheated by her partner, An, who designed the scams.
Yao said she met An during a TV dating program and that she then invited him to run the forum. An was reported by the newspaper to have gone missing after the letter was posted online.