A property policy issued by a district government in southwest China's Guizhou Province has led to a divorce boom among local villagers.
The number of couples filing for divorce each day in Yunyan District, Guiyang City, capital of Guizhou, has increased five-fold since a property policy went into effect in October.
The policy stipulates that a local household can apply for land area of no more than 130 square meters and a total floor area not exceeding 240 square meters for housing construction.
The policy is part of local authorities' attempts to curb rampant illegal housing construction, but it has resulted in a marked increase in the divorce rate.
However, many newly-divorced couples will remarry their original spouse later, as the scheme is meant to double the property area they can own.
Newlyweds and even couples in their 90s have jumped on the divorce bandwagon to take advantage of the policy loophole, forcing the district government to open more office windows to handle waves of applications.
A just-divorced couple said they did not really want to divorce.
"Our marriage is fine, but divorce is the only way to get the extra property. We cannot find a better way," they said.
The situation in Yunyan has aroused concern among netizens, who are leaving thousands of comments on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like microblogging service.
"It is the loophole that forced people to resort to the inappropriate ways," wrote netizen "ONLY_MR."
"I think the local government should improve its policy-making ability, and citizens should be better educated on marriage and divorce," wrote blogger "Yegenglan."
Authorities said the upsurge in divorce cases has exceeded expectations.
It's not the first time that such a thing has happened in China, though. Similar cases were reported in Shanghai a few years ago, when the municipal government limited new apartment purchases to one per family. Many couples planned to dodge the rule through fake divorces, and some even turned to companies selling bogus certificates for a phony divorce certificate in order to buy more new apartments.
"The government should be more open and precise when making public policies," said Zhou Xiaozheng, a sociology professor at Renmin University of China. "It should hold more public hearings and solicit advice from experts and the general public."
"There's nothing wrong with people wanting to maximize their interests, but the government needs to make sure that the policy has no loopholes," he added.
Wang Zhongwu, a sociology professor at Shandong University, voiced concerns about the negative effects of the "fake divorces."
"What if those 'fake divorces' turn real?" Wang said.
"'Fake divorce' does not violate the law, but it's against traditional Chinese values. Improper public policies might drive people away from traditional values," he added.