|In China, Making
Nice on the Web
by Amy Wu
2:00 a.m. Nov. 15, 2000 PDT
HONG KONG -- Hong Kong businessman Robert Chua is better known for his sex-free, politics-free and news-free channel CETV then anything ending with dot-com.
But over a year ago, Chua -- famous for butting heads with News Corp. executive Rupert Murdoch for a slice of the China market -- began to look to the Internet as an extension of his media business and an outlet for the 6,000-plus domain names he has scooped up.
And that content, Chua stresses, will be as uncontroversial as the material that he broadcasts on TV -- even though his websites will not specifically be targeted to the mainland, where strict government restrictions preclude anything but state-positive content.
"If it happens to go to China it goes to China. I won't target a specific market, I want to target the world," he says.
The sites will all promote family values, Chua said. For example, at the end of the year he will launch MeandMyLove.com, a site that uses interactive functions to promote marriage and the idea of "Til Death Do Us Part." Couples will post their marriage vows online, and family and friends will be able to purchase "virtual" wedding gifts.
If the marriage sours, friends, family and Web surfers can post online support and advice to the site to keep the marriage intact. Once posted, the information can't come down.
Chua sees it as an online wedding ring, and he's dead serious when he thinks it will be a hit.
It makes sense that MeandMyLove.com will launch in Singapore first and then the rest of Asia; Singapore's government has a history of offering perks to promoters of family values. Chua is also confident that the site will be a hit in China, and despite the rising divorce rate on the mainland, will have a market as well.
Chua added that about 30 percent of the money made from banner ads and virtual gifts on MeandMyLove.com will go toward helping battered women.
As for other sites, Chua plans on launching NumbersTo.com, where users can post their mobile phone and pager numbers. He will also launch a site for the Giant Panda Breeding Center in Chengdu.
Chua insists he is not launching Internet ventures solely to make money, and is staying clear of sex-related sites, even though they can be very profitable.
"I won't have anything racy, none of that 1-900 stuff," he said, adding that at one point the debt-burdened CETV received advertising opportunities from sex-related commercials, but turned them down. "I don't need that kind of stuff for my business."
Chua said he's confident that his non-racy CETV content will go over well on mainland China's Internet. "It has worked for CETV and will work on the Net as well," he said.
Chua's decision to go online couldn't be timelier. Last month, the government unveiled an Internet Code Law that fines and even imprisons Internet service providers that back anti-government content.
Insiders say the growing presence of the Falun Gong and the perceived threat of its material on the Web was a key reason for the law's implementation.
"Chua's strategy is smart. He may not want to admit he wants to get into China but he knows that in order to have a piece of that market he needs to comply with their culture," said a Beijing resident who requested anonymity.
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