Mercenary marriages cause turmoil in C China
Updated: 2011-09-02 22:46
CHANGSHA - For most women, marriage means falling in love and planning a romantic wedding. But for 18-year-old Yang Jinmei, marriage arrived at knife point.
A Vietnamese woman, Yang Jinmei (Chinese name) says three years ago four traffickers abducted her near the border of China and Vietnam. They put a knife to her cheek and took her to Shuangfeng county in central Hunan province.
Around this time, Hu Xinfa was looking for a wife. At 35, he was divorced, raising a daughter, and finding it difficult to remarry. Eventually, he borrowed money from relatives to "buy" a wife.
The 15-year-old Yang had a price tag. She literally cost 35,000 yuan ($5,468). Hu paid it. The money went to traffickers who claimed they were Yang's relatives, and he and she became man and wife.
But not really. In practicality, they were as good as married, but legally they were not because Yang had entered China illegally. Yet there was little risk to either, as authorities are known to look the other way.
Not surprisingly, no honeymoon followed, and in fact, the "newlyweds" could not even speak to each other for a long time, as Yang only spoke Vietnamese.
During most of the first year Yang was with Hu, she resented and resisted the coerced marriage.
"In fear and protest, I threw outside the bananas and apples my husband bought for me," Yang recalled. But Hu's patience and kindness eventually won her over.
After the birth of her daughter, about one year into their relationship, she reached a point of acceptance, though she still missed dearly her parents, both old and frail.
Hu Xinfa and Yang's situation is not unusual in rural villages, as a significant gender gap has created a market for "mercenary" marriages.
Hu Jianhe, who lives in Hunan's Shuizhou village about 3 km away from Hu Xinfa's home village, paid marriage brokers more than 36,000 yuan three years ago for his Vietnamese "wife," whose Chinese name is Ma Zhengfen. She and Yang became friends.
But Ma disappeared in May, leaving behind her two-year-old daughter.
Two months later, she called, saying she had been abducted and asked Hu Jianhe to pay 20,000 yuan for her release -- otherwise she would be resold, Hu's father recalled.
Hu Jianhe opted not to pay. He suspected it was all a scam from the beginning, yet he initially chose not to report it to the police, because he worried he might be accused of trafficking.
And Hu isn't the only one in the village who bought a wife. Hu Qiulai did as well -- also from Vietnam, and his wife disappeared just like Ma.
In recent months, there have been a number of purchased wives reported missing, which has led to a Shuangfeng county anti-trafficking campaign and an investigation of illegal marriages.
Its public security bureau has sent a few police officers to southwestern Yunnan province, which borders Vietnam, to look into the case. But apprehending traffickers and stopping the flow of girl and young women across the border will require more than a few county officers.
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