According to The Economist (March 14, 2009), gangs of kidnappers roam the mountains around Sapa in north Vietnam, hoping to snatch a potential bride or two for selling on in China. Typically, a Hmong girl is wooed by someone (Vietnamese or Chinese) who speaks her language. She gets lured to a rendezvous to be drugged and smuggled into China, probably near Lao Cai, an hour5's drive from Sapa. The magazine tells of one 18-year-old who escaped back home after four days, through jumping out of a window and going to the Chinese police. They took her back across the border. But most don't escape.
These kidnappings have been going on for some years. But local people say the numbers are rising among Hmong women. Bride-buying, a Chinese tradition that the Communists largely stamped out, is on the increase with the country's surging economy. Ever since the 1980s, "women were taken from poor areas, and sold to some areas that had recently gotten richer," says Ding Lu of the All-China Women's Federation, a Chinese NGO. In the 1990s, more women than men abandoned their villages for big-city jobs, leaving the countryside loaded with single men.
There is nothing new about bride kidnapping rings in China. "What's new is cross-border traffic," Ms. Ding says. The women come from mostly from Vietnam, according to the All-China Women's Federation, caused by Vietnamese relative poverty and the long, porous border. More than 10,000 women from Vietnam are in China illegally, according to International Organization for Migration estimates. "The pretty ones are sold as brides", says Nguyen Thi Phuong Thi of the Vietnam Women's <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />Union, a Communist Party arm that monitors the problem. "The ugly ones go to brothels."
The kidnappers call their victims "straying cows." Dang Canh Khanh (Youth Research Institute in Hanoi) says the promise of a job is a common trick. In fact, he reckons women cross the border willingly on promises that they will be well cared for. Their young victims may trust the bride-brokers all the more because the traffickers often are Vietnamese women themselves. Former brides or prostitutes in China, they have the advantage of being able to move between the two cultures, says Pham Kim Ngoc, a researcher at the Center for Gender, Family and Environment Development, in Hanoi.
Selling new brides is lucrative, according to Samantha Marshall of the Wall Street Journal (August 5th 1999).
At the border, where supplies are highest, a young woman is worth $250 to $800, with $50 to $100 of that, still a small fortune, going to the initial kidnappers, and the rest kept by brokers or traders who provide brides directly to buyers. The brides command a higher price in more remote regions, but the longer a trader holds on to a woman, the greater the chance of running into the authorities. So it isn't uncommon for a trader to make a quick deal near the border, then return to repurchase the bride for a richer transaction inland.
Pei Xingfu lives in the border village of Ban'ai. He was arrested for kidnapping a Vietnamese woman in broad daylight. According to him, about 30 to 40 per cent of his fellow villagers marry Vietnamese women. "Thanks to the opening up (of the country) and reform, villagers here are better off and therefore can afford to marry Chinese brides. I don't understand why they still want to wed Vietnamese women, even young men between 26 and 30," he says.
In the past few years, about seven men in the village have been sentenced for trafficking in Vietnamese women. Dongxing City shares 35.77 kilometres of the country's land boundary line and 42 kilometres of the coastal boundary with Vietnam. Ever since the Viertnam War there has been a tradition of marrying on either side of the border. This has given rise to trafficking of Vietnamese women in China. According to www.boloji.com
, eight border towns in Guangxi are affected by this influx of Vietnamese women.