February 18, 2010

Many "Vietnamese Brides" Without Legal Identity, Their Children Hukou-less

Translation: Southern Villages nfncb

Except for his record, Mo Guohua's family register is blank

"Vietnamese brides" and their children, Dadutang, Jiangnan Village, Gaoliang Town, Qingde County (德庆县高良镇江南村大都塘村)

"I don't know what to do, perhaps attend school for two years and then come back to be a farmer." Other than her "three nots" illegal status (non-citizen, non-national, non-person), 14 year old girl Mo Shuiyan (莫水燕) does not appear any different from her fellow classmates. Mo's flawless mandarin makes even her elementary school principal envious.

But Mo is aware of her special circumstance, because her mother Chen Hongwen (陈红文) comes from Vietnam.

Chen Hongwen clearly recalls the river route by which she entered China more than ten years ago. After paying 200 Chinese yuan to the boat owner, she was placed among businessmen who possessed legal documents. The bargeman took the group first to Dongxing (东兴市) located in South Guangxi. Then from Dongxing, they dispersed into other regions in Guangdong/Canton and Guangxi.

Toward the latter half of 1990s, China saw many such Vietnamese "Chen Hongwens." They either came from a life of penury or were spinsters. In the end, most found husbands in the mountainous western parts of Guangdong and Guangxi.

An official accurate headcount is still missing for the group. In Datong Village alone, which fell under the jurisdiction of Gaoliang Town, Qingde County in Zhaoqing city (广东省肇庆市德庆县高良镇), the reporter met more than 10 Vietnamese ladies. "There are around 100 Vietnamese women living in Qingde County." Villagers say that in places close to Guangxi, like Luoding (罗定), Yunan (郁南) and Fengkai (封开), the numbers probably are even higher.

Anonymous Letter Asking for Help

What prompted this news article was an anonymous letter sent to Southern Villages in December 2010. Hoping to increase public awareness of the plight of these women and their children, the letter stated--

They are children, some already attending school with kids their age and others about to enter school. Yet their parents are apprehensive about the future--without hukou (residency permit), these children will face hardships when they apply for colleges and jobs.

[Their mother,] Vietnamese women who married Chinese men, are pragmatic and able to face reality. They have settled down to raise offspring with their husbands


Though some wives have gone back a few times to Vietnam to visit relatives, they still cannot obtain legal marriage certificates. These women barely make enough money to pay for daily living expenses despite of year-round hard work. Their husbands are typically older, and a few are physically unable to work.

"We Have Integrated Ourselves into China"

In neighboring Vietnam, the male to female ratio is 3:5 to due to attrition in past wars. Therefore, many women willingly marry outside of their country.

Special match-making agencies seek pretty women, coach them in etiquette, and then introduce them to foreign men. For these ladies, China was one of the destinations as early as ten years ago, although most during that time period came under the pretext of job hunting.

Following an older cousin's footsteps, for instance, 35-year-old Kim Hung Nguyen (阮金红) married Datong villager Xu Jinyuan (徐进源). "I only paid the match maker a red envelope of 300 yuan," Xu Jinyuan cannot stopped smiling when talking about his marriage, "I was 30 and poor. And I wanted a wife bad."

When arriving at the Xu residence on January 29, 2010, the reporter saw Grandpa Xu basking in the sun with his two granddaughters and 7 year old grandson. Xu Jinyuan had returned from his farm to specifically welcome the reporter. A good sand sugar orange harvest put everybody in a good mood, allowing them to relax after a year of toil.

"If she didn't marry into our family, I probably would not be alive today." Granpa Xu said, it was a blessing of several lifetimes that allowed his son, who was in his thirties at the time, to find Kim Hung Nguyen.

Chen Hongwen from Jiangnan Village (江南村) was also present at the meeting. The woman had crisp and hearty laugh. In fluent Cantonese, she told the reporter, "I was skinny and dark-colored back in Vietnam. At 30, I still could not find a husband." In 1995, Chen married 43 year old Mo Hongfen (莫洪芬) after two years working as chicken butcher in China. Chen Hongwen was able to learn the West Canton dialect in just six months, and she spoke it well enough to haggle with customers. Nowadays, while her husband Mo Hongfen stays behind in Jiangnan Village to tend the rice fields, the outgoing Chen, in the business traditions of her Vietnamese homeland, moved with her daughter Mo Shuiyan to Gaoliang Town and reopened the chicken butcher business.

"We have integrated ourselves into China. This is our home," replied Chen Hongwen after a long pause, when daughter Mo Shuiyan begged her to say "I love you" in Vietnamese.

Mo Shuiyan has never seen Vietnam, "I don't know what the country looks like. I have no concept for it."

According to Gaoliang public security officer Liang Shulin (梁树林), the village has welcomed 10 Vietnamese women over the years. Two ran away because their husbands were too poor, but the rest remained and started their own families. In Datong Village that claims a population of 2000, vice president of its village committee Ren Tanyong (任谈咏) said that around 15 Vietnamese brides live there, and 20 hukou-less children have reached school age.

Eligible for Food and Medical Benefits

These Vietnamese wives have gained the acceptance of village leadership, but officially their status is hard to legalize. Currently their biggest worry revolves around their children: insurmountable hurdles include hukou, education, and job search.

In Kim Hung Nguyen's home, one wall displays Chairman Mao's portrait, while the adjacent wall is covered by all kinds of awards. The village acquiesced to the Xu children's right to education despite of their illegal status. "Under orders from the village, they receive equal treatment, just like any other students."

"And the compulsory education is free of charge," said Mo Shuiyan's school principal Li Weigeng (李伟耿). Although ineligible for need-based scholarship assistance, their education is otherwise the same.

In Qingde County, this equal treatment extends to other aspects. Last year, both Kim Hung Nguyen and children received governmental food subsidies. "They are also eligible to buy cooperative medical care and insurance. Our village does not discriminate."

Offspring Not on the Household Registration Record

When Mo Guohua (莫国华), citizen of Jiangnan Village in Gaoliang County, left the military in 1995, he was past his prime. "So I spend money to find me a Vietnamese wife." Now Mo is a father of two. In 2007, he visited the county police department with birth certificate handwritten by the midwife and stamped with the village red seal to obtain a hukou for his son Mo Zhenhuang (莫振煌).

"The police department refused, telling me they do not have such a policy." Mo Guohua tried to get out of his village hukou long ago but failed. "Now my children do not even have hukou. They are worse off than I was at their age. At least I had left the village [for a while] and seen the outside world." Mo Guohua sucked deeply on a cigarette, then forcefully exhaled the smoke, "Is my family doomed to be hukou-less?"

Kim Hung Nguyen's three children excel in academics, motivating parents to work harder, but the hukou issue is like a ever-tightening magic band around everyone's head, a constant source of headache. "If they pass college entrance exams but cannot go [because they don't have hukou], will they hate me forever?" Xu Jinyuan frets.

In Jiangnan Village, elementary school principal Luo Weigeng (李伟耿) described these children: their parents gave them lives, but the government cannot grant them a legal identity.

According to the provisions of Chinese marriage laws, hukou may be issued after the following requirements are met: Vietnamese brides must produce documents from Vietnam that prove their marital status, identity, residence, they must show passport and visa that allowed them to enter China, and their children must have birth certificates from Chinese hospitals.

The reality, however, is that poor Cantonese families have great difficulty obtaining any of the said documents. For example, Mo Guohua's wife Huang Xin (黄欣) has not gone back home in 15 years. She does not even know any way to get back in touch. "Going back requires a lot of money. If I possessed the ability to get all these documents, I would not even have a Vietnamese bride in the first place." explained Mo Guohua.

"There is not one China-Vietnam cross border marriage on our records." said He Gui (何桂), who is the head of Deqing County Bureau of Civil Affairs.

A few year ago, the Deqing police department had consulted with their superiors at the province level over this issue. At the time, they were told that hukou can be issued upon demonstration of birth certificate. However, the following three premises have to be met first: the father must express strong wishes for his children to remain in China, and the births cannot have violated any regulations; the father must establish parent-child relationship by providing DNA test results; lastly, Vietnamese brides must be deported.

"Impractical." Vice Minister of the Department of Propaganda in Qingde County claimed. In the poor areas of West Canton, it is nigh impossible to satisfy the requirements. "The local government would also like to solve this [hukou] problem, but we cannot disobey federal policies that dictate what we can and cannot do."

When asked whether she fears deportation, the normally talkative Kim Hung Nguyen fell silent. Finally, she said, "I have lived here for more than 10 years ." The question troubled her so much that she did not speak again to the reporter for the rest of his visit there, not even to say goodbye.

Meanwhile, the "three nots" children look forward to saying goodbye to their hukou-less status.

1 comment:

  1. The wedding ceremony is really wonderful like the brides.I think they are like princess in a royal palace. But although the entire celebration is beautiful, many men can have sexual problems that could represent a serious problem. So i suggest them to buy viagra and forget any concern their sexual lives.


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