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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 July, 2004, 23:05 GMT 00:05 UK
Chinese brides cold-shouldered in Taiwan

By Caroline Gluck
BBC, Taipei

Mr Wang and Liu Su-jen
Liu Su-jen is 30 years younger than her Taiwanese husband
They have been called gold-diggers, prostitutes and communist spies.

The thousands of Chinese women who have married Taiwanese men say they face many forms of discrimination - and are anxious for something to be done about it.

Taiwan and China have been bitter rivals ever since Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist troops fled to Taiwan after their defeat by the Communists at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

Beijing regards the island as a breakaway province - to be reunified by force, if necessary.

But despite the rivalry, the number of marriages across the Taiwan Strait continues to grow.

Last year nearly one in five of all marriages in Taiwan were to mainland Chinese.

The first men to bring young Chinese brides back to Taiwan were elderly veterans like Wang Bao-kun.

The trend started more than a decade ago, when the authorities in Taiwan began to allow visits to the mainland.

Chinese brides are treated as worse than second class citizens
Huang Jiang-nan, The Marriage Association of the Two Sides of China
Mr Wang returned to China to visit his family - and find a wife.

He finally married at the age of 70. His wife, Liu Su-jen, is nearly 30 years younger than him.

Like many of the 210,000 women from China who have married Taiwanese men, she dreamed of a better life.

But reality can sometimes be far different from the way she imagined.

"If I walk down the street, people point at me and say 'Oh, you're a Chinese bride,'" she said.

"If you work, and they find out your accent isn't Taiwanese, they'll discriminate against you. You might do the same work as a Taiwanese, but you'll get paid less."

For worse or better

Women like Liu Su-jen seek help and advice at The Marriage Association of the Two Sides of China, a centre set up by the husband of a Chinese wife.

The organisation also acts as a lobby group, fighting for better treatment for wives from the mainland.

"Chinese brides are treated as worse than second class citizens," said the centre's director, Huang Jiang-nan.

"Taiwanese society, particularly the government, hasn't paid enough attention.

"Many regulations discriminate against them. The treatment they receive is far worse than other foreign wives," he said.

Huang Jiang-nan
Huang Jiang-nan runs a centre to help Chinese wives
Chinese women already have to wait twice as long as other foreigners before they are considered eligible for Taiwanese citizenship.

Proposals to extend their eight year wait to 11 years prompted hundreds of Chinese wives to stage a rare protest last year.

According to Mr Huang, there are many reasons why the Taiwanese are hostile to women from the mainland.

"There are many cases of fake marriages, and Chinese women working here illegally or as prostitutes," he explained.

"As a result, Taiwanese society is quite sceptical towards all Chinese brides.

"There are a lot of real marriages, but it's difficult to tell the difference - and that affects the rights of those who are genuinely married," he said.

'False' marriages

Last September, the government introduced screening procedures to try to crack down on false marriages.

As a result, more than 2,000 Chinese women have either been barred from entry to Taiwan, or repatriated.

The government admits that regulations for Chinese spouses are tougher than for other foreigners, but insists the measures are necessary.

"Look at the number of Chinese spouses who enter legally but engage in illegal businesses," said Joseph Wu, chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, which is responsible for policies towards China.

Many Taiwanese also worry that if the upward trend of cross-strait marriages continues, the Chinese spouses could influence Taiwan's political future and lobby for reunification with China.

"Some people... fear [that] when these people come into Taiwan they might alter the political landscape," Mr Wu said.

Despite all the problems, marriage agencies specialising in finding Chinese brides are not worried about the prospect of business slowing down.

"Taiwanese women aren't interested in getting married any more," said Shen Ming-chih, the director of one marriage agency.

He said that local women were not only marrying later, but were becoming pickier about their partners.

"More Taiwanese women are financially independent... They don't want to find any random guy, they'd rather stay single," he said.

Taiwan's population imbalance - men substantially outnumber women - adds to the problem.

Many Taiwanese men who want to marry and settle down may have little choice but to look to China and other less wealthy Asian nations if they are to find a wife.

Taiwan's foreign brides
25 Dec 02 |  Asia-Pacific
Marriage classes for Taiwan couples
07 Jan 03 |  Asia-Pacific


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