Increasing numbers of Hong Kong women finding love over the border

A growing number of educated and wealthy women are marrying mainlanders - and challenging ideas about cross-border unions

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 August, 2013, 10:01am

Well-educated and high-achieving Hong Kong women are marrying mainland men in increasing numbers, helping to push up the number of such couples threefold in the past decade.

Census and Statistics Department figures show that 6,785 Hong Kong women married someone from across the border last year, up from 2,407 in 2003.

And a survey has shown that many had what are known as the "three highs" - education, a senior position at work, and high income.

The results challenge perceptions most cross-border marriages are among low-income groups.

Despite the increase, however, such marriages still account for only about 25 per cent of cross-border couples.

The increase on the other side of the equation has been much smaller, with annual marriages between Hong Kong men and mainland women increasing only 14 per cent in the past 10 years from about 17,000 in 2003 to 20,000 last year.

Principal researcher at the Hong Kong Ideas Centre, Elvis Luk Wai-ki, who conducted the survey, said many of the local women who married mainlanders were women labelled as "the three highs".

"They have a higher education degree, high positions, and high income," Luk said.

Immigration Department statistics show the average age gap between Hong Kong wives and their mainland husbands is less than a year.

Cantonese was the "official language" for such families. "Mainland husbands choose to learn Cantonese for their wives most of the time," Luk said.

The survey polled 510 people who married someone across the border after 2003 and whose households had a monthly income of over HK$25,000. The survey took the form of interviews with nine government professionals, social service groups and matchmaking companies.

Senior consultant Terry Shum, from Agape Matchmaking and Consulting, one of the consultants involved in the survey, said Hong Kong women's impression of mainland men had improved in the past few years, especially of men dubbed "Hong Kong wanderers" - mainlanders working and living in Hong Kong.

Since the handover, more than 388,000 cross-border couples have married in either Hong Kong or on the mainland, which accounted for 16 per cent of the total number of households in Hong Kong.

Cross-border marriages used to be seen as a social problem in Hong Kong, said Anna Lai Wong Oi-ling, executive director of the ideas centre's policy research centre.

"Most cross-border couples were from grass-roots families in the past. Hongkongers had very bad impressions of cross-border marriage," she said, adding that they were often associated with social problems such as family violence and sham marriages.

Over the past 10 years the centre has seen an increasing number of middle-class cross-border couples, Lai said.

Seventy-six per cent of the cross-border couples questioned in the survey said tension between the mainland and Hong Kong was not serious.