BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Programmes: Correspondent  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Correspondent Saturday, 1 February, 2003, 11:24 GMT
China: Desperately seeking modern love?
Married couple
This happy couple found love through a dating agency
As many Chinese find love through dating agencies, they can find themselves coming into conflict with both communist and traditional values.

Fifty years on from Mao's revolution, the role of Chinese women has changed enormously and they enjoy levels of freedom undreamed of by their foot-bound ancestors.

But new freedoms and expectations have also led to increased pressures on marriages, and divorce rates are now soaring.

Hu Yangping
Hu Yangping: a match-making divorce lawyer
Hu Yangping is a career woman who runs a dating agency, but is also trapped in an unhappy marriage.

Her story illustrates the paradoxes and problems that face communist China as it attempts to embrace a changing world of greater individual liberty.

She is married to an officer in the People's Liberation Army and, by law, cannot divorce a soldier unless he consents.

Social stigma

Yet she also works as a divorce lawyer.

At the China Women's League, Hu Yangping helps married women who have been the victims of domestic violence, and has handled more than 400 divorce cases.

Actually, our clients are ashamed of using a dating agency.

Hu Yangping

But after work she tries to match up more than 250 clients who are on the books of her dating agency, arranging 70 weddings in three and a half years.

None have ended in divorce.

But dating agencies have yet to be fully accepted in Chinese society.

"Actually, our clients are ashamed of using a dating agency. They lie about us at their weddings," said Hu Yangping.

"They even pretend they're old sweethearts And we have to keep it secret!"

Second-class citizens

Many Chinese are still wedded to the anachronistic view that women are second-class citizens, child bearers and domestic servants.

He said you're not living in America, you're not free, you're my property

Mrs Gung

One of Hu Yangping's clients at the Women's League, Mrs Gung, provides evidence that these attitudes still prevail.

"I can't stand it anymore. I'm a citizen of the People's Republic of China. I have the right to leave him," she said.

"He said you're not living in America, you're not free, you're my property."

Hu Yangping often gets angry listening to the way women are treated by their husbands, and can identify with many of their problems.

"Being a divorce counsellor makes me reflect on my own marriage," she said.

Mr Hu
Hu Yangping cannot easily divorce her husband
"My marriage isn't a happy one. My husband is hostile to me like I'm his enemy.

"If I ask him about anything he says I'm interrogating him but I'm just showing interest and he tells me nothing.

"My clients regain their freedom I really envy them.

"When a divorce first starts my heart is sad and heavy. When it's over, though, I feel overjoyed.

"All their problems have vanished and a wonderful new life awaits them.

Ideal marriage

"Sure they have fighting and tears. Divorce is painful but you eventually get a new life.

"My husband's in the military so I can't divorce him unless he agrees."

Hu Yangping eventually found a way to separate from her husband and she remains optimistic about the future.

"I do believe in love at first sight, although I haven't experienced it. But I can imagine falling for someone who I've only just met.

"I think in an ideal marriage you grow old together. I love to imagine an old couple holding hands and walking into the sunset," she said.


Correspondent: Love in China was broadcast on BBC Two on Sunday, 2 February at 1915 GMT.

It was shown as part of the BBC Two / BBC Four New China, New Year series.

Programme directors Duan Jinchuan and Jiang Yue were trained by the BBC to become the first Chinese film makers to make a documentary that explores and reflects aspects of their own society.

See also:

29 Jan 03 | Correspondent
26 Jan 03 | Correspondent
06 Dec 02 | Correspondent
Links to more Correspondent stories are at the foot of the page.


 E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Correspondent stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes