Couples tie knot across Straits

Updated: 2013-08-09 08:24

By Sun Li and Hu Meidong in Jinjiang, Fujian (China Daily)

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'Mini three links'

A smoother path was paved in 2001, when a policy known as "mini three links" was adopted and allowed direct ferry services between Fujian's coastal cities and Taiwan's offshore islands of Kinmen, Matsu and Penghu.

"The original two-day-odd trip has since been shortened to a two-hour journey, and I visit my parents twice a month," said Hong Shuangfei.

With two sons and a profitable cosmetics store in Kinmen, Hong said she doesn't care about her status as the first Weitou woman to marry a Taiwan resident. Instead, she values happiness above all other things and believes she has attained it.

Following in her footsteps, many Weitou women have married men from Taiwan. Hong Shuiping, the village head, said 134 women have wed men from Taiwan and more than 30 of them have moved to Kinmen. Others have settled in Penghu, Kaohsiung and Taichung.

While Hong Shuangfei has never regretted her decision, not every mainland bride has enjoyed married life in Taiwan.

Most of the first batch of mainland brides married veteran Kuomintang soldiers. Those men unable to find spouses in Taiwan were allowed to return to their hometowns after 1987, when the mainland and Taiwan resumed interpersonal relations, to look for brides.

"Most mainland brides married former soldiers and were much younger than their husbands. Many of those women were divorcees who wanted to change their lives through marriage," said Lu Yuexiang, chairperson of the Chinese Production Party, a political party in Taiwan that focuses on equality and rights for mainland brides and other new arrivals.

Couples tie knot across Straits

Lu, 49, from Longyan in Fujian, was one of the earliest mainland brides to arrive in Taiwan and although she didn't marry a veteran but a businessman she had met through a matchmaker in 1992, she had a hard time fitting in during the early years.

Long-standing cross-Straits confrontations, allied to social and economic differences, meant mainland brides often faced discrimination. Some Taiwan residents considered the marriages to be bogus and thought the women were motivated by financial considerations, according to Lu.

"Because of my status as a mainland bride, vegetable vendors at the market often ignored me and I was once turned away while trying to see a doctor," she recalled.

Mainland brides also faced discrimination when applying for ID card registration and permanent residence rights.

It took Lu nine years to obtain an ID card in Taiwan. Even now, mainland brides have to wait six years before being granted one, two years longer than Filipino or Vietnamese brides. Without the card, the women cannot work legally or receive social insurance.

Realizing that the number of mainland brides was rising rapidly and hoping to save them from the difficulties she had experienced, Lu founded her party in 2010. It provides aid and advice to mainland brides with issues such as residency and employment, and lobbies for authorities to improve the situation.

Jiang Yanzhen, 25, who met her husband via a social networking site and married in 2012, said the entire marital process was sweet, with the exception of the "lengthy and painstaking procedures" required when she applied for permanent residence in Taiwan.

The native of Longyan city in Fujian, who now lives in Taiwan's Xinbei city, said gaining right of residence requires the applicant to provide a certificate to prove they don't have a criminal record.

"To get the certificate, I had to run between the public security bureau in Chengdu, Sichuan province, where I spent my college years and the bureau in Xiamen, where I have hukou (household registration)," said Jiang.

The landscape design major added that her qualifications are not recognized in Taiwan, and warned graduates of mainland universities that they should expect to work harder than local residents to find a decent job.

"But nothing is really a problem when you have love backing you up," she said.

Wei Jinhe, a matrimonial expert with the Cross-Straits Marriage and Family Association, the mainland's first organization dedicated to providing marriage counseling services to cross-Straits couples, said marriages of this sort are now on a fast and positive track.

More than 10,000 cross-Straits marriages are registered every year and in excess of 10,500 couples married in 2012, according to China's Ministry of Civil Affairs.

The first cross-Straits marriage was recorded in 1989 in Xiamen and since then more than 340,000 mainland residents have tied the knot with people from Taiwan.

Against a background of rapid economic growth on the mainland and frequent personal exchanges, cross-Straits marriages have become increasingly common, said Wei.