— Videos of Pakistani brides emerge saying ‘living happily in China’
— Most marriages between China, Pakistan are good. Illegal marriage brokers shall be punished, not brides and bridegrooms, says senior Chinese Embassy official
ISLAMABAD: The fate of several newly-wed couples of Pakistani and Chinese origins hangs in the balance in view of investigations by law enforcing agencies from both countries following media allegations suggesting that Pakistani women were being smuggled to China for illicit businesses.
Two sisters living in a city near the federal capital approached Pakistan Today to express their concerns about the impact of media hype on their personal lives.
“My younger sister and I married two Chinese men and had been living happily for a few months. When the news made headlines, my husband got scared and left for his home country, leaving me behind,” said Saima while talking to Pakistan Today.
Accompanied by their brother, Yaseen, Saima told that she had decided to marry Mr Zhang after her childhood friend who had also wed a Chinese urged her to marry a man of the same nationality.
“My childhood friend is living in China and is very happy over there. She persuaded me to follow suit and proposed one of her husband’s friend’s as an eligible bachelor who lives in Shandong province,” she said.
When asked to elaborate on how much time she had spent with her husband after the wedding, she said that they had spent over four months together. “He was staying here as we were waiting to get my visa approved from the Chinese embassy. It takes time since the procedures are a bit complex but now, I am worried about my future,” she said.
Yaseen, interrupting Saima, said that it was an arranged marriage after detailed communication took place between the two families.
“Not only did we speak to Mr Zhang often, but were also in contact with his parents and interacted with them through video-conferencing,” he added.
Asked how they got their younger sister to follow in her elder sister’s footsteps, Yaseen explained that they had met a friend of their brother-in-law, who was visiting Pakistan along with his father to attend the wedding, on the day of the ceremony.
“The young man named Mr Lou and his father were so nice that we had decided to marry off our younger sister in April this year as well. Mr Lou belonged to Heilongjiang and is a loving and caring man. Ever since the controversy emerged, I have been in fear of my sisters’ life and happiness,” he added.
Asked if the law enforcing agencies ever contacted them in connection with investigations, he replied that no one contacted them yet. However, local police officials were making good use of the incident to forcefully take bribes.
“One day, I was driving my elder sister and her husband to a function when a police vehicle intercepted us. Upon investigation, we produced all legal documents but the policemen threatened to arrest my brother-in-law unless we paid them to avoid trouble. So, we were forced to pay what you would call a bribe in order to rescue my innocent brother-in-law. After the harrowing experience, he decided to fly back home to avoid any further harassment,” he added.
Perhaps Mr Zhang was a bit lucky to have flown back without getting into another sticky situation as compared to others who were stopped and thoroughly harassed at Islamabad Airport.
On May 7, two couples were off-loaded by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officials from a China-bound flight from Islamabad Airport and after humiliating harassment, the Pakistani girls, Sameah Tabassum and Shabana Ashiq, were barred from going along with their husbands who had to leave alone whereas, their travel documents were also snatched.
Later, the two newlywed girls filed a joint petition with the Lahore High Court (LHC) naming the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Punjab chief secretary and the FIA director as respondents against offloading them from the plane in the presence of proper documentation and proofs.
They stated that they had married their respective husbands in January and were going to China but were offloaded from a China-bound flight along with their husbands.
The petition stated that the women were happy with their husbands and that a “propaganda on social media was looking to bring a bad name to Pak-China friendship” and sought that FIA be stopped from harassing locals and their Chinese spouses and that the petitioners’ passports and other documents be returned to them.
The FIA has over the past three weeks arrested scores of Chinese nationals and their suspected local abettors from various parts of the country in connection with an investigation into a transnational gang allegedly involved in contracting fake marriages between Chinese men and Pakistani women, who are later forced into prostitution and the illegal organ trade.
THE TIDE IS CHANGING
The Chinese embassy in Pakistan has been very active since claims of Pakistani women being allegedly transported to China under what they called ‘phoney marriages’ for prostitution and organ trade went viral on social media.
Deputy Chief of Chinese Mission, Zhao Lijian, shared a video on Twitter, featuring a Sino-Pakistani couple to clear the air regarding the scandal. “Most marriages between the two neighbouring countries are good. Only illegal marriage brokers shall be punished, not the brides and bridegrooms. Claims of Pakistani girls are trafficked to China for forced prostitution and organ sales are rumours. We investigated and found no evidence of such a thing,” says Zhao Lijian.
“I am Hina Patras and I belong to Mingora, Pakistan. I am married to a Chinese national, Wang Tangchuin, who lives in Xinxian city, Henan province, and I am living here happily,” states the Pakistani girl featuring along with her Chinese husband in the video.
“I came here after marriage around five months ago. I am thankful to God that everything is okay here. I’m not only happy but my in-laws are also considerate to me. And so is my husband who treats me as an equal,”.
“Upon my arrival, I was given a warm welcome and accepted happily. Whenever I go out, people are helpful to me as a foreigner. My life is going great. I pray that the future remains the same and God keeps blessing both of us,” concludes Hina.
In another video on Twitter, Tina and her family of three appear together to share their experience.
“My name is Tina and I was married to a Chinese national about two years back. We now have a daughter and live a normal and prosperous life here. The rumours spread by certain people are groundless,” she says.
On the other hand, the Chinese embassy, on May 15, decided to withhold visas of Pakistani women who were planning to travel to China with their spouses, after the complaints of human smuggling in the garb of cross-cultural weddings were received.
DCM Zhao Lijian said that the embassy had alerted Pakistani authorities after witnessing an unusual increase in wedding visa applications this year. “Last year, 142 Pakistani women applied for such visas after marrying Chinese nationals while 140 Pakistani brides had already applied for this category of visa in this year so far,” said Lijian Zhao while speaking to media.
“China is investigating all 142 of the weddings that took place in 2018, and initial investigations revealed that in a few isolated cases the couples were experiencing troubles…we are trying to determine the nature of these problems,” he said and added that China is ready to help those girls if there is an issue.
Zhao Lijian also denied media reports about Pakistani women being trafficked and subjected to forced prostitution and organ sale in China. “Lies are being spread on the internet and the media that the Pakistani girls are being sent to China for forced prostitution or sale of organs. It is totally fabricated and for sensational purposes. There is no evidence for it,” he concluded.