Christian Pakistani women are “sold” as brides to Chinese men, and end up as victims of abuse, are forced to prostitution, and even (some claim) killed for organ harvesting.
by Massimo Introvigne
The case of a mother of eight children found chained in Jiangsu, a victim of human trafficking, was the most commented news item in China in February and March. It gathered more comments on social media than the war in Ukraine. Netizens, before their posts were systematically cancelled by the authorities, shared horrific stories of how human traffickers, often with the complicity of CCP officers, sell women to villagers affected by the shortage of brides resulting from the old ill-fated Chinese one-child policy. When one child only was allowed, particularly in rural areas, families preferred a boy and aborted the girls, with the result that brides are now a scarce commodity.
This March, a report by the Brookings Institution has revealed something even more sinister, and focused on the international dimension of bride trafficking. Brookings published a report that offered almost unbelievable details on this sordid market.
Due to the Belt and Road Initiative and the creation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, it has become very easy for Chinese workers to enter Pakistan. Many genuinely come to Pakistan to work. Some fall in love with Pakistani girl and marry them, which of course is not illegal. In other cases, the Brooking report argues and documents, Chinese men come to Pakistan with documents issued by non-existing companies and for false business purposes. They go to Pakistan only to buy a bride.
They are prepared to pay for a bride between $3,500 and $5,000, which is significant money for impoverished Pakistani families. Here, however, the religious factor enters the picture. Pakistan applies to marriage the sharia law, under which a non-Muslim man cannot marry a Muslim woman. Only a Chinese Muslim man can marry a Pakistani Muslim girl. Most of those who travel to Pakistan from China in search of wives are not Muslims. They can convert, but it takes time. This explains why bride trafficking focuses on Christian girls. Christian activists reported that in the city of Gujranwala, Punjab, only, between 750 and 1000 Christian girls were trafficked to Chinese men looking for brides in one year.
Obviously, these girls do not speak Chinese and know nothing about Chinese culture. The report collects several sad stories of abuse, maltreatments, domestic violence, and forced pregnancies. The story of the chained mother of eight comes irresistibly to mind.
There is worse. In some cases, the report claims, these are sham marriages. The Chinese men do not even look for real wives, but for exotic women they will force to work in China as prostitutes. The report also mentions something even more unthinkable, that according to some unconfirmed accounts Pakistani women are taken to China and killed to use their bodies for organ harvesting, while noting that Chinese authorities “vehemently deny” such allegations.
Bride trafficking with China involves thousands of Pakistani women. While the Pakistani police has arrested some local organizers, Chinese “husbands” have been largely left alone. The report’s conclusion is that investigations have been suppressed for political reasons and the traffic is still growing.
The report’s serious accusation is that Pakistan tries to avoid anything that can damage the image of China in the country. Pakistani politicians value more their relationship with China than they value the fate of Pakistani women trafficked as brides, the more so when they come from religious minorities that are largely treated as if they included second-class citizens.