Innocence lost: probe launched amid fears China ‘temporary travel partner’ seeking trend on social media being used as cover for ‘escort’ services

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The growing trend in China of young people seeking “temporary travel partners with shared interests” is coming under scrutiny amid fears that the practice is being used as cover to solicit “escort services”.

The social media-based trend revolves around young adults connecting with like-minded individuals who share the same interests. This can include everything from food and gaming to fitness, travel, and even farming.

It also allows for people to “connect and disconnect at any time”, allowing individuals to alleviate loneliness while preserving their personal space and independence.

For many, it has not only led to delightful dining experiences but also genuine companionship. Some have even formed partnerships to help each other in endeavours as diverse as job hunting and postgraduate entrance exams.

According to a report from Just So Soul, a research institute attached to the popular social media platform Soul, a staggering 60 per cent of young people expressed their willingness to find a “temporary partner,” in a survey of 3,136 participants. Notably, 18.6 per cent of respondents claimed to have already found such a partner.

The popular mainland social media platform Xiaohongshu has launched a “comprehensive review” of posts in the wake of complaints. Photo: Shutterstock

However, perhaps inevitably, the phenomenon has taken a dark turn.

Information has emerged online that some people are using the practice of “seeking travel partners” as cover to solicit “escort” services.

Online posts of this nature invariably say that “all expenses will be covered” and specify “females only” .

For instance, one poster explicitly stated that he only intended to travel to developed countries, offered VIP treatment and chauffeured transportation, with nightly stays in hotels priced at 5,000 yuan (US$688) or more.

The post read: “I want to find a qualified female companion with above-average looks and physique, someone who wants to experience high-end travel, for instance, to South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Australia.

“I will cover all expenses! Please be clear about the requirements. If you understand what I mean, please come.”

Another poster shared her unsettling experience while seeking genuine temporary travel partners on the Xiaohongshu social media platform.

When someone she had made contact with asked if she was looking for a “green” partner, the shocked woman asked:“Are there any non-green partners?”

To which the person responded: “Aren’t there plenty on the platform? Those who specify ‘females only’ and ‘all expenses covered’ are usually seeking ‘non-green’ partners. If they want ‘green’ ones, they make it clear in their posts.”

Amid growing public concern, Xiaohongshu says it is looking into such potential abuse of the trend and treating the matter very seriously.

The platform has launched a comprehensive review of all “travel companion”-related posts.

If any content that violates the rules is confirmed, they will take legal action against offenders in accordance with the law and regulations, reported The Paper.

The dark twist to what was otherwise an innocent trend has sparked widespread discussion on mainland social media.

One woman said: “Two weeks ago, I genuinely wanted to find a female travel partner, but all I got were private messages from males. Eventually, I gave up and went on my own.”

A number of women have shared their experiences of creepy online encounters. Photo: Shutterstock

Another said: “When they say ‘females only’ and ‘all expenses covered’, even a fool understands what that means. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

“I thought temporary partners simply meant a group of like-minded, financially constrained individuals coming together to share experiences,” added a third person.

Another online observer commented: “It started out normal, but when people find loopholes, it gets distorted.”

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