GUANGZHOU: The number of Hong Kong women marrying men from the mainland has increased steadily in recent years, amid an overall decline in mainland-Hong Kong marriages.
More than 34,500 permanent residents of Hong Kong married mainlanders in 2006, accounting for about half of all marriages involving Hongkongers during the period.
Some 6,500 of those unions involved Hong Kong women tying the knot with mainlanders, up from less than 2,000 in 1996, and accounting for 19 percent of all Hong Kong-mainland marriages that year.
An official with the Guangdong provincial bureau of civil affairs said the trend is likely to continue as the gap between living standards in the two regions shrinks.
The increasing links between Hong Kong and the mainland will also make it easier for people from the two sides to interact, the official said.
Meanwhile, many mainland women, particularly those with white-collar jobs, are choosing not to look for husbands in Hong Kong because they do not want to live apart while they await their residency rights.
Hong Kong's high-pressure housing market has also become a disincentive for potential husband-seekers.
As a result, the number of Hong Kong-mainland marriages has been decreasing at an annual rate of about 10 percent in recent years.
Some 2,600 residents of Guangdong Province, which borders Hong Kong and Macao, married Hongkongers last year, down 15 percent from the year before.
During the 1980s, it was common to see 15,000 weddings between Hongkongers and residents of Guangdong in a single year. The situation started changing in the late 1990s.
Traditionally, women account for a large majority - about 80 percent - of the mainlanders who marry residents of Hong Kong and Macao, sources with the civil affairs bureau said.
Some Guangdong residents still marry in the hope of securing permanent resident status in Hong Kong or Macao, especially as emigration procedures have been simplified in recent years.
Chen Shanhong, a white-collar worker in Guangzhou, said that Hong Kong is no longer a prime destination for women from the mainland, particularly those who have studied abroad.
"I would prefer living in Guangzhou, Shanghai or one of the other mainland metropolises now that there are more opportunities for talented people," Chen said.
The 28-year-old predicted the number of mainland women who marry Hong Kong residents will continue to shrink in the coming years.
(China Daily January 2, 2008)