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Did a Man in China Sue His Wife For Being Ugly?

Various reports and circulating messages claim that a man in China sued his wife for being ugly and won the case to the tune of $120,000.

Doctor shows information: plastic surgery

© gwolters

Brief Analysis
The story has been published as true by a number of news outlets. However, it is possible that the story is actually a hoax.  Although it has recently garnered a good deal of media attention, the story actually goes back to at least 2004 and was reportedly first posted by a Chinese news outlet with a history of publishing false and unverified stories. And, an image that is claimed to depict the family in question was actually taken from an unrelated advertisement for plastic surgery.

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A Chinese man has divorced and sued his wife after discovering she’d had plastic surgery before they met. Jian Feng, 38, was said to have been horrified when she gave birth to an ugly baby daughter. He suspected her of having an affair.

His wife then confessed to having plastic surgery in South Korea before they met and showed him a picture of how she used to look.

He filed for divorce two years after marrying her following a whirlwind romance.

Detailed Analysis

A story circulating vigorously via social media and the blogosphere claims that a man in China sued his wife for being ugly and was awarded $120,000 after the court found in his favour.  According to the story, the man was horrified when his wife gave birth to an "incredibly ugly" child and at first suspected that she was having an affair. Later, the wife confessed that she had extensive plastic surgery before they met. Thus, the man sued and divorced her for getting him to marry her under false pretenses.  Or so the story goes.

But, in fact, the claims have never been properly verified and there are indications that the story could possibly be a hoax. The story has recently been picked up by several news outlets and published as truth.  However, the veracity of the tale is increasingly in doubt and at least some of these news outlets have now backtracked.

Despite the recent media attention, the story actually goes back to 2004.

It appears that the story may have been first aired by China's Heilongjiang Morning Post, a publication with a record for shoddy journalism and posting false or unverified information. The paper was forced to apologise in October 2013 after it published a report claiming that a man arranged a date with his online girlfriend only to find that the girl was his own daughter-in-law. Later investigations revealed that the story was just a hoax.

It seems that all later media reports about the man suing his wife for being ugly were derived from this original 2004 Heilongjiang Morning Post story.

Moreover, some current incarnations of the story feature a photograph that supposedly depicts the man and his wife with not one, but three children. Given that the man supposedly divorced his wife after she produced the first "ugly" offspring, one wonders how the other two youngsters fit in.

It turns out that the family portrait has no connection to the described case. In fact, it was lifted from a rather cruel ad for plastic surgery that was aired in Taiwan.   A May 2012 Rocket News 24 article discussing the image notes:
[T]his picture is an ad for a plastic surgery center in Taiwan, and you can see that the children in the picture don’t look like their parents at all. The ad features the line, “The only thing you have to worry you about after plastic surgery is the explaining you’ll have to do to your children.”
Other unverified images reportedly depicting "before and after" shots of the wife and of the "ugly" daughter, have also been attached to various incarnations of the story.

The bottom line? Right now, there is not enough credible information to say that the story is true. Or that it is a hoax for that matter. But, given the decided lack of verifiable details, I'd suggest that this story should be taken with a grain of salt.

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Last updated: November 8, 2013
First published: November 8, 2013
By Brett M. Christensen
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