SE Asian wives go missing in China

Source:Global Times Published: 2014-12-10 19:48:01

Two dealers arrange marriage for a girl (center) allegedly from Southeast Asia in Poyang county, Jiangxi Province, in 2013. Photo: CFP

 Ding Aihua could not believe it: The local police said there was nothing they could do to help her find her missing daughter-in-law, little they could do to relieve her anguish, despite the mysterious fact that a dozen of her neighbors in Quzhou county, North China's Hebei Province, also lost their daughters-in-law overnight between November 20 and 21.

"[The 100,000 yuan ($16,200)] was all we have and now it's all gone. My husband has gone mad," Ding told the Hebei-based news portal, referring to the money her family spent on the daughter-in-law, who is a Vietnamese bride.

According to Ding, her daughter-in-law was introduced by a woman named Wu Meiyu. Wu claimed to be a Vietnamese matchmaker who had been married to a local villager in Quzhou for over two decades. Ding's family paid Wu 100,000 yuan in July, after Wu began promoting her matchmaking services with Vietnamese women earlier this year. Wu also claimed that she could help get a household registration, or hukou, for the foreign brides.

After the Vietnamese brides went missing, the villagers were startled to find Wu, who had allegedly fled the country. They called the police on November 21. The number of victims, which was reportedly in the hundreds, included families in two other neighboring counties of Quzhou. Police are investigating the case.

Vietnamese brides are nothing new in Ding's neighborhood and in many other rural regions in China. Matchmaking services offering to "buy" a Vietnamese bride, though illegal, still exist alongside persistent reports that many of the young brides have run away.

Brides on the lam

According to Ding's son, Xiao Yuan (pseudonym), his Vietnamese wife went missing on November 20 when she told the family that she needed to attend a wedding the next day. Similar excuses were offered to other families, reported Xiao Zhang (pseudonym) also found his wife gone from their home in the village of Fenggang, in Jiangxi Province, after she claimed that she needed to go back home in Cambodia to visit an ailing family member. The family had "bought" the Cambodian girl for 80,000 yuan, reported Shandong-based

According to other villagers, Xiao Zhang's family had the best living conditions of all four families in the village that had bought wives from overseas, but Xiao Zhang's Cambodian wife was the only one who ran away.

She was also the only one who had not become pregnant. Some of the other foreign brides had already given birth, which made everyone in Xiao Zhang's family nervous. Their anxiety in turn upset the girl when they tried to explain the issue to her.

Villagers in Jiangxi's Shuangtian township had never seen a Vietnamese woman until early 2013, when one villager brought back home a Vietnamese wife, who then brought three more Vietnamese women to the village. All were sold at prices ranging from 30,000 to 50,000 yuan, and all disappeared last June.

Dissatisfaction on both sides

Yang Meijin was sold to a family in Hunan Province when she was 18. She found herself tempted to leave when an unidentified man called her, speaking her dialect.

"He asked me on the phone if I missed home and said that he could take me home. I was hesitant at that time, and my daughter was only 1 year old and my husband treated me well. So I decided not to go in the end. I could have been sold to other places if I agreed to go with them," Yang told Nandu Daily.

She disclosed that some Vietnamese wives would go back to the matchmaker if they are not content with their husbands' families, "so that they could be sold to a new family and they [matchmakers] could make a fortune once again."

However, some husbands believed that their missing wives had nothing about which to be dissatisfied. "She did not have to do anything. Every day she just ate and bossed [people] around," Xiao Yuan from Hebei was quoted as saying by

"At first it seemed like she wasn't able to understand Chinese. I needed to ask Wu to translate for me. But only within a few days, she suddenly began to speak Chinese," he added.

In Huanggang, another county in Jiangxi, Zhang Junqing (pseudonym)'s family pooled 80,000 yuan to organize a match with a Cambodian girl. According to the agreement with matchmakers, Zhang could live with his wife-to-be for half a month and another match could be organized if Zhang did not like her.

Zhang's first match was a bad-tempered girl and miscommunication due to her inability to speak Chinese seemed to add to the conflicts. However, when Zhang brought the girl back and asked for a new match, the girl yelled out "he [Zhang] had slept with me," which not only embarrassed Zhang but also cost him 40,000 yuan, which the matchmaker asked as compensation for the girl.

Instead of settling down to have a family, some Vietnamese wives took contraceptive pills to avoid pregnancy and facilitate their future escape, an anonymous insider in the business told Nandu Daily.

"Vietnamese women are better educated than those from Cambodia. They are harder to tame and some come to get married in China with ulterior motive. They will only stay if their life is comfortable, otherwise they will run away," said Lao Yu (pseudonym), a Jiangxi-based matchmaker. 

Gray marriages

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) had both issued warnings about the risks of marrying Vietnamese wives through matchmakers.

Chen Shiqu, director of the MPS's anti-human trafficking office, said that Chinese marriage agencies are not allowed to source spouses from other countries and it is illegal for individuals to engage in international matchmaking for profit.

However, some 3,190 Vietnamese women and children were trafficked to China for the purposes of forced marriage, or to be sexually exploited in brothels, read a 2011 report compiled by the British Embassy in Hanoi,

Light punishment was believed to be one major reason for the proliferation of the matchmakers. "Offenders get their business income confiscated at most and [Chinese] Criminal Law doesn't clearly define [crimes in this area]," Hu Zhouxiong, a Guangdong-based lawyer specializing in marriage cases involving foreigners, told the Global Times previously.

An Hongbin, a police officer in Quzhou, said that Ding's case is still under investigation, and that it remains to be seen whether it should be classified as human trafficking or fraud now that the Vietnamese women involved have run away.

Newspaper headline: Runaway brides
Newspaper headline: Runaway brides

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