Illegal Chinese cross-border matchmakers flourish as demand grows

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 November, 2013, 6:12pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 November, 2013, 2:02pm

Two years ago, a cross-border matchmaker introduced a 19-year-old Vietnamese woman called Le Hong Duyen to Sichuan migrant worker Chen Tao. Nine months later, Le married Chen and moved to Guangdong province where she started a matchmaking service, introducing Vietnamese women to Chinese men.

With Le’s help, bringing a Vietnamese bride to China costs 38,000 yuan, which covers processing of legal documents, a translation service, Chinese lessons, a health check and a wedding ceremony.

However, this service is illegal in both China and Vietnam.

Chen Shiqu, who is in charge of tackling human trafficking for the Ministry of Public Security, on Monday confirmed with The Beijing Times that China forbade the establishment of marriage agencies involving foreigners. He added that no one is allowed to engage in fraudulent or profit-making matchmaking activities involving foreigners. Chen’s comments have quashed online rumours that buying a foreign bride is a matter of personal choice and is legal.

Le tries to get around this by declaring on her website that her service is personal and the 150 Vietnamese women listed on the site are friends and relatives.

Similarly, Honest Asian Brides Network, a matchmaking website where Le worked when she first moved to China, claims on its website that the company doesn’t provide matchmaking services, only consulting services. The agency, which was established in 2009, now has branches in Hong Kong, Guangdong, Shanghai and Vietnam.

According to a member of staff at Honest Asian Brides Network, who declined to be named, the most expensive brides are from Indonesia and cost 60,000 yuan. A Cambodian bride can cost up to 57,000 yuan. But if the client is looking for a virgin, an extra 10,000 yuan is added to the service fee.

There are few specific requirements for men other than that they are kind, honest and employed, which is not much compared to the requirements of many young Chinese women these days.

According to Le’s website, clients can meet girls as soon as they land in Ho Chi Minh. If both sides are satisfied, a wedding ceremony is held in Vietnam within a few days and the legal documents are prepared for the bride when she gets to China.

Le's wedding ceremony

Travelling to Vietnam to find a bride has long been popular among Chinese men, but Monday’s Single’s Day placed the issue back in the spotlight when a group shopping site ran a lottery to win a free trip to Vietnam to find a bride.

“You don’t have to go with a group, you can go by yourself if you prefer,” said the Honest Asian Brides Network staff member. “We didn’t have a special promotion on Single’s Day because this service is always popular.”

The staff member said the majority of his clients were from rural areas with limited income, but recently there had been an increase in inquiries from city dwellers.

“The general ratio of my clients is 8:2. Most of them are still from rural areas. This is the kind of marriage they can afford,” he said.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, in 2011, the national sex ratio at birth in China was 117.78, meaning almost 118 baby boys were born to every 100 baby girls. However, the normal ratio should range from 103 to 107. By 2025, it is expected that there will be 37 million single Chinese men.

Several studies have indicated that as costs relating to marriage and supporting a family increase, the leftover group will be those with lower incomes.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued an announcement warning Chinese citizens to be aware of fraudulent matchmaking activities and posted the phone number of the Chinese embassy in Vietnam.

Chen said that the Ministry of Public Security should work with the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to stamp out illegal matchmaking activities involving foreigners.