Rules make it tough for lonely officials in 'sensitive' roles

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 March, 2010, 12:00am

Mainland authorities are notoriously secretive and fearful of outside intervention in national affairs - so it should come as no surprise how close an eye they keep on the personal affairs of officials working for even vaguely sensitive departments.

Police are far from the only ones barred from marrying foreign nationals. The same legislation causing the Hong Kong woman and her cross-border would-be fianc?'s headache - a decree laid down by the State Council in 1984 - also applies to civil servants working for the ministries of civil affairs, foreign affairs and state security.

It isn't even easy for government staff to disappear on an exotic holiday. Public Security Bureau staff get permission to travel overseas for personal reasons. But while most regulations read like something from a cold-war-era spy novel, some of the checks and balances on those guarding the country's secrets have managed to keep pace with the digital age.

A directive was recently issued barring security agents from using 3G mobile phones. Equipped with high-resolution digital cameras and the ability to access the internet from almost anywhere, the hi-tech gadgets have raised official hackles about their potential for leaking classified documents - even accidentally.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Protection of State Secrets clarified at a press conference on Sunday that the rules only applied to 'key staff', not 'ordinary people'.

With all the controls, it's a wonder civil servants ever manage to find a suitable spouse at all.

That concern hasn't escaped the powers that be.

Their solution? They set up a matchmaking website in 2005 specially for government workers.

'Are you still stressed about being single?' the homepage asks, next to a photo of a young couple apparently playing hide-and-seek.

The site - - advertises activities ranging from dancing classes to mock war games to help overworked civil servants find the partner of their dreams.

Presumably all the available matches have been thoroughly vetted to root out any possible moles - or foreigners.