Missing Vietnamese 'Brides': A Hidden Hurt for Chinese 'Leftover' Men

January 20, 2015
By Wu YanEditor: Amanda Wu

It has been three months since the Vietnamese "bride" of Yuan Xinqiang, from Nanliyue Village, Handan, north China's Hebei Province, went missing, but he still waits and his parents are angry and dismayed, the Beijing News reported.

Yuan's wife, nicknamed Lanlan, reportedly vanished with more than 100 other Vietnamese "brides" together with their marriage broker, Wu Meiyu, herself Vietnamese, on November 21.

It was not until her disappearance that Yuan realized that he neither had Lanlan's photo nor legal evidence of their "marriage." He did not even know where in Vietnam she originated from. She was an absolute stranger to him.

Yuan "bought" Lanlan, who held no identification papers issued by the Chinese government but claimed to have a Vietnamese ID card, after paying 100,000 yuan (U.S. $16,139) to marriage broker Wu on August 23. The money was a staggering sum and included his family's savings, some interest-free borrowed money and a further borrowed 20,000 yuan with high interest.

Despite an ongoing investigation by local police, the 100-plus households who went through a similar experience suspected that they were caught in a marriage fraud.

Xiaowu (alias), one of the missing Vietnamese "brides", returned to her "husband's" home alone. She told China Central Television that she was invited to have dinner on November 20 but lost consciousness. When she awoke she found herself in a dark room and was told she was to "marry" another husband. She refused and returned home before calling police on November 21.

A victim, surnamed Zhu, said marriage broker Wu collected his "bride's" ID card from him days before the disappearance, on the pretense of a complete set of documents securing a legal marriage, the Beijing Times reported.

"Brides" of foreign nationalities running away is not unusual according to Chinese media. A similar case occurred on October 12, 2013, when seven Cambodian "brides" who lived in Jinyun County, east China's Zhejiang Province disappeared on the same day.

According to a regulation relating to cross-cultural marriages issued in 1994, no marriage agency is allowed to broker marriage for foreigners. Individuals are also prohibited from making a profit from foreign matchmaking or carrying out marriage fraud.

Why 'Buy' a Foreign Bride?

Despite the legal restriction, underground foreign matchmaking is rampant in China, especially in impoverished villages where there are masses of bachelors due to the high cost of marrying a native woman.

Zhu, a victim of the Handan missing "brides" incident, said that in his village of Quzhou County, if a man wants to marry a native, he has to send about 120,000 yuan gift money and a car to a woman's family, as well as prepare a fully-furnished new house, which in total costs more than 400,000 yuan, the Beijing Times reported.

Quzhou County is a poverty-stricken agricultural county, said Zhu, the number of women of marriageable age is much lower than males.

The Beijing Times, quoting Wang Zehua, a researcher at Hebei Academy of Social Sciences, said that with increased urbanization growing numbers of young rural women move to cities through marriage.

Although many rural men flock into cities for a job, the high cost of marrying a woman there outweighs the money they earn, making it difficult to build a new family. As a result, they are forced to return to their villages. Anomalies in female and male rural populations leads to a serious imbalance between the sexes, said Wang.

Despite uneven economic development between rural and urban areas, the deep-rooted Chinese concept concerning reproduction is a widely discussed cultural aspect contributing to the worsening situation.

The preference for male offspring has long dominated mainstream culture. Conservatives, especially old-fashioned clans in rural areas, regard boys as the only recognized heirs to carry on a family line.

According to figures released by China's National Bureau of Statistics in January last year, men outnumbered women by 33.8 million in a country of more than 1.3 billion population.

For every 117.6 boys born there were 100 girls (the natural rate is 103 to 106 boys to every 100 girls), a government report showed in 2013.

The huge gap between sexes forces "leftover" men, particularly financially constrained rural ones, to look across the border for an "economic" bride, although this poses potential dangers.

Threats to Illegal Mixed-Marriages

Communication and cultural barriers are obvious obstacles between couples when it comes to build a long-term stable relationship.

More than two months ago a Vietnamese woman threatened to jump from a 4-story apartment, in Wenzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province, but her Chinese husband had no idea why. He admitted they seldom talked to each other in their six months of marriage because of language difficulties.

But the thorniest problem of mixed-marriages is their legitimacy. In most "missing bride" cases reported, a foreign "bride" is introduced by a broker, who collects service fees but fails to assist in managing legal immigration for the woman or marriage rites for the couple, which makes the "bride" invisible in China from a legal perspective.

"Buying a bride" may relate to human trafficking or marriage fraud, which is a violation of the law, said Chen Shiqu, director of the human trafficking task force under the Ministry of Public Security, the Beijing Times reported.

If the couple has disputes, both sides' rights lack the protection of the law, Chen said.

Life in Nanliyue village has gradually returned to normal. Yuan Xiaokang, a 20-year-old compatriot of Yuan Xinqiang and fellow abandoned "groom", is seeking a job, promising to earn the 100,000 yuan lost in his failed marriage. In big cities such as Beijing, rural men can earn 2,000 to 3,000 yuan a month, much more than what they would earn in the village.

Life in Nanliyue Village has gradually returned to normal. Yuan Xiaokang, a 20-year-old abandoned "groom", is seeking a job, promising to earn the 100,000 yuan lost money. In big cities such as Beijing, rural men can only earn 2,000 to 3,000 yuan a month.

Others followed suit, except Yuan Xinqiang. He will wait a little longer, saying: "I can't believe she would fool me".

(Source: China Daily)

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