Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

Sham weddings to scam hukou [Global Times]


A peek into domestic scams: Sham weddings.

Amongst China’s list of divides is the Hukou divide, seen by some as systemic discrimination and others as modified versions of household registrations that date back to antiquity.

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Sham weddings to scam hukou
By Zhang Hui
Source – Global Times, published March 13, 2012

More couples are entering into sham marriages in order to fraudulently gain a Beijing hukou (household registration), and then filing for divorce, according to a report from Yanqing county court.

In such cases, the couple registered to marry at the civil affairs department, but the marriage was not based on love, rather it was one of convenience in which economic reasons are foremost. These include buying houses and cars, or access to local services such as schooling for non-local children, according to the report.

“We’ve dealt with about 20 such cases as of now,” Li Qingliang, a judge at Yanqing county court told the Global Times yesterday.

Li cited a case he dealt with last year, when a rich non-local woman promised to give a Yanqing farmer 100,000 yuan ($15,810) after faking their marriage for three years.

But the farmer fell in love with another woman within the three years, and asked for a divorce. His “wife” refused as she had not yet got a local hukou. The case ended up with the farmer dropping the divorce lawsuit due to “unclear reasons.”

In another case at Pinggu district court, this time of identity theft, a man from Hebei Province stole a Pinggu woman’s identity card, and pretending they were married, used it to fraudulently buy an apartment. The woman sued the man and his accomplice after she learnt about the conspiracy.

Since the introduction of stringent rules which have precluded many migrant workers from buying houses and cars in Beijing, even Web users have been suggesting sham marriage could be a way to get round the restrictions.

Last year, in measures aimed at cooling the housing market, the government stipulated that non-Beijing hukou holders must pay tax for five consecutive years before buying a house or car. Car sales are also restricted due to anti-congestion measures.

The report found that most sham marriages happen in Beijing’s suburban districts, because there is still a disparity between the city’s urban and suburban hukou policies.

A non-local woman can get a Beijing hukou three years after she marries a suburban resident, which includes residents in areas like Huairou, Shunyi, and Pinggu districts, or Miyun and Yanqing counties.

A non-local man marrying a female resident of these areas will receive a hukou after five years.

But the non-local partner must be over 45, and married for 10 years to get a Beijing hukou if they wed an urban Beijinger, according to the court’s report.

“If there were no disputes heard at a court during the lifetime of the sham marriage, the non-local spouse could successfully get a hukou from the police station,” Li said.

Qi Lianfeng, a lawyer from Beijing Yingke Law Firm who specializes in marriage and divorce law, believes the current law cannot prevent sham marriages, nor is there any penalty for a couple who engages in one.

“The fake couple would only be punished if a third party was involved and their sham marriage had affected this third party’s interests,” Qi told the Global Times.

These sham marriages sometimes have severe consequences. Li said in many cases, the couple have a child, which would not only adversely affect the child, but could also easily cause alimony disputes.

The current hukou policy does not only lead to instances of marriages of convenience, it also contributes to divorce between other married couples, according to Li.

Some, who originally married for love, have even asked for divorce after getting a hukou after the three- or five-year qualifying period.

“They believe they have got what they need, and marriage and children is no longer so important,” Li said.

Qi suggests the government should supervise marriage, for example, by investigating suspicious cases. It should also adjust the hukou policy and punish those using malicious behavior to get a hukou.

Additionally, Yanqing county court believes the court should rule the marriage invalid and have the hukou invalidated if they discover a case of a sham marriage.

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Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Chinese Model, Culture, Domestic Growth, Government & Policy, Hukou, Politics, Reform, The Chinese Identity

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