When Hong Kong property tycoon Cecil Chao (趙世曾) offered a US$65 million “marriage bounty” to any man willing to marry his daughter, who is a lesbian, it seemed to many like the most indecent of proposals.
However, offers quickly poured in from all over the world, ranging from simple date requests to humorous bids for a menage a trois.
About 100 would-be suitors for Chao’s 33-year-old daughter, Gigi (趙式芝), have beaten a path to his office door since Wednesday’s announcement, but thousands of others have resorted to letters, e-mail and fax to proclaim their interest.
They include “war veterans from the US, someone from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, from Istanbul, South America, Portugal — really, just from all over the world,” Gigi said.
According to the Hong Kong English-language daily the South China Morning Post, one man suggested his brother, a George Clooney body double, as “the picture-perfect date that your father craves.”
Another said: “I will win his daughter’s heart and marry her, and my Maid Marian, a gorgeous Brazilian model, will help accomplish that with me.”
One Frenchman was a bit more modest in his proposal: “I think I can make this woman happy. I’m as soft as a woman,” he wrote.
And one made reference to Gigi’s sexual orientation: “I’m interested in your offer to wed your daughter, who also happens to be gay,” said one American. “I am a male person, who also happens to be gay.”
Gigi, who serves as the executive director of the luxury property development company Cheuk Nang Holdings, of which Chao is chairman, has denied being upset by her father’s offer and described it instead as his “very interesting way of expressing his fatherly love.”
“I was really quite touched, very touched and very — how should I say? — moved by Daddy’s announcement,” she said. “I mean, it’s really his way of saying, ‘Baby girl, I love you. You deserve more,’ basically.”
Cecil Chao, 76, is said to have created the dowry after learning that his daughter had had a “church blessing” with her long-time partner in France earlier this year. Homosexuality has been decriminalized in Hong Kong since 1991, but same-sex marriages are not recognized in the city.
Chao says Gigi is neither gay nor married and has dismissed reports of her same-sex marriage as rumors.
“What this whole episode really highlights,” Gigi said, “is that perhaps still, the Chinese — or in fact the Hong Kong mentality — can perhaps tolerate the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ view of sexuality. As a social statement, it’s still very much a sensitive issue.”
Chao’s so-called bounty wields a wide net indeed: Open to men of every nationality and economic background, the only stipulation, according to the Post, is that the man “loves my daughter, and she loves him.”
As for what kind of wife his daughter would make, Chao promises that “Gigi is a very good woman with both talents and looks [who] is devoted to her parents, is generous and does volunteer work.”
Surprised by the reaction his bounty received, which he described as “thousands of people writing to say they want to be my in-laws” — Chao says he only wants to make sure his daughter has a secure future.
“Living a comfortable life in Hong Kong, not super-luxury, takes HK$500 million [US$64.5 million],” he said, adding that a house alone costs HK$150 million.
Perhaps Cecil Chao, who boasts of having slept with over 10,000 women and never married, would be better getting married himself. The sunglass-sporting tycoon has received a mere few hundred marriage proposals in the past two days.