China / Society

Group helps couples solve cross-Straits difficulties

By HE DAN (China Daily) Updated: 2012-08-29 03:10

New association offers counseling, works with government agencies

The country's first organization dedicated to providing counseling services related to marital matters for cross-Straits couples was set up in Beijing on Tuesday.

More than 320,000 residents from the mainland have tied the knot with people from Taiwan since 1987, when the two sides resumed people-to-people communications, Civil Affairs Minister Li Liguo said at the launching ceremony.

He said cross-Straits marriages are becoming more frequent, with 10,000 to 20,000 registrations every year.

The organization, Cross-Straits Marriage and Family Association, was set up thanks to support from the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council.

Dou Yupei, vice-minister of civil affairs and head of the association, said cross-Straits couples have more questions about marital life, including marriage registration, employment, social insurance, education, residency permits and adoption, following the development of cross-Straits marriage over the past two decades.

The association will open a hotline to provide marriage counseling services for mainlanders who have married or are planning to marry residents from Taiwan, Dou said.

It will also collect requests and complaints from these couples and then work with government departments to solve their problems, he said.

In 2011, Vivian Lee of Taiwan, a student in a PhD program at China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, married her boyfriend, who is originally from Guangzhou and works in Beijing.

"We had to register our marriage twice as the mainland and Taiwan did not recognize each other’s registration, and the procedures were complicated and it took us a year to prepare all documents," the 39-year-old said.

"As a spouse of a resident from the mainland, I hope the government will grant five-year multiple-entry travel permits so I won’t need to renew my permit too often," she said.

Lee said another issue she is concerned about is education for the next generation.

"For people from Taiwan, we cannot apply for permanent residency permits in mainland cities. So in the future when we have children, they may not be able to go to schools near where we live," she said.

Ge Tieqiang, an official from the Fujian Provincial Civil Affairs Department’s social affairs division, said more than 100,000 Fujian residents have married people from Taiwan since the late 1980s.

"During the early stages, many young women from Fujian were so eager to improve their quality of life that they even felt happy about marrying old men from the economically developed Taiwan," he said, adding that most cross-Straits couples at that time were introduced to each other through marriage agencies.

"Given the rapid economic growth on the mainland and frequent personnel exchanges across the Taiwan Straits, we can see that more people are getting married for love and more couples are choosing to live on the mainland after marriage," he said.

"Marriage plays a vital role in promoting the cross-Straits relationship," said Wang Yi, director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, adding that the association should work hard to remove all barriers and potential discriminatory policies on cross-Straits marriage.

Wang also pledged at the launching ceremony that his office will offer "all possible support" for the association’s work.

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