Young mainland women 'marrying elderly Hong Kong men to get residency'

Welfare group sees rise in abuse cases in which old men who married young mainlanders are forced into divorce and evicted from their flats

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 March, 2014, 11:56am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 March, 2014, 2:41am

All Uncle Law, 83, wanted was someone to share his life with. And when he met a young mainland woman, he thought he had finally found "the one".

They married after meeting in Hunan province in 2010 and had a son the following year. But last year, just six months after his wife and son obtained their one-way permits to live in Hong Kong, Law's world fell apart.

After months of abuse, including public humiliation, he was divorced, lost custody of his son, then three, and was evicted from his 150 sq ft public flat.

Law's story is not unusual, according to welfare agency Against Elderly Abuse, to which he was referred in December. But the agency said he was the oldest of 100 elderly men who sought its help last year.

"In the beginning, the couple had disputes over trivial matters," assistant executive director Roy Lam Man-chiu said.

"She then complained about their poor living conditions, argued over money and their relationship, and shouted at him every day.

"She also accused him of impotence in front of his friends and neighbours. This made him feel ashamed and embarrassed. He was afraid to go out and meet neighbours and friends."

Social Welfare Department figures show the number of cases involving abuse of the elderly rose 44 per cent to 589 last year, from 408 in 2012. There were 368 reports in 2011 and 319 in 2010.

Psychological abuse, the category under which Law's case falls, almost doubled to 73 cases last year from 36 in 2012 - the most since 2009. Lam said the 100 abuse cases his agency handled last year compared with just dozens in previous years.

Responding to a Post enquiry, the department did not offer an explanation for the rise in elderly abuse cases, but said the government took such cases seriously and would not tolerate abuse.

Law was ordered to move out of his flat after his wife, then in her 30s, won custody of the child. The Housing Authority said that in the case of a divorce, it usually allowed the custodial parent to keep the flat.

Lam said many elderly people who did not know how and where to seek help ended up homeless. But the agency has helped Law find another flat through the Housing Department's compassionate rehousing scheme.

Lam said he believed the main reason mainland women married elderly men in Hong Kong was to get residency in the city and seize their flats. In similar cases his welfare agency handled, most of the women were from Hunan and Hubei provinces and in their 30s, and their spouses were all public housing tenants over 60 years old living on welfare, he said.

Social-welfare sector lawmaker Peter Cheung Kwok-che said the rule awarding a flat to custodial parents protected wives and children from hostile husbands. He said the government at best could only take remedial action such as offering men evicted from their flats after divorce a rental allowance of around HK$1,500.

Men over 60 should think carefully if a young mainland woman agreed to tie the knot, Cheung said, adding it could be "too good to be true".

Echoing Cheung's advice, Lam from Against Elderly Abuse said: "Lust? Use caution."