05/09/2019, 17.42
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First arrests in Christian bride trafficking involving Chinese men

by Shafique Khokhar

The people arrested include a Chinese woman, who headed the syndicate, a Protestant clergymen and four others, all Christian. Young women were enticed to marry Chinese men on the promise of a better life, but ended up as prostitutes or forced to work. The Chinese woman paid for the fake marriage, but some money also went to the parents of would-be Pakistan brides.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – Six people accused of organising marriages between Pakistani Christian women and Chinese men have been arrested, and are waiting trial. After travelling China with their husbands, the brides ended up sold into prostitution in China.

The accused are Ms Candis, a Chinese national who headed the group, Rev Zahid, a Protestant clergyman, and four other people – Kashif, Qaisar, Janu and Parkash Masih – all Christian.

The arrests follow a complaint by Mushtaq Masih, whose daughter was taken to a restaurant in Faisalabad to marry a young Chinese man on the promise of a better life in China.

At the eatery, police found Rev Zahid had a fake marriage certificate. After they were questioned, the six were arrested on charges of human trafficking, fraud and forgery, and are currently in prison awaiting trial.

These arrests are the first on record, but the Catholic Church has complained for a long time about the problem of fake marriages between Pakistani women and Chinese men.

The police found that Ms Candis, the head of the group, worked together with Anas Butt (picture 2), a very influential Muslim figure, the son of a retired police officer. From Lahore, the two would get in touch with poor Christian women and girls in order to entice them to marry young Chinese men.

All the marriage expenses were borne by Candis, who also paid a substantial sum to would-be brides’ parents, telling them that their daughters would enjoy a prosperous married life.

Unlike the six, Anas Butt has not been arrested, and remains a powerful figure. Mehak Bibi, a Christian woman who married a Chinese man a few months ago, managed to escape from Lahore and return to Faisalabad to her family, and now refuses to go to China with her husband. Anas is making threatening phone calls to her and her family, telling them that they would suffer dire consequences if she did to return to her Chinese husband.

According to the police, 20 illegal marriages have taken place in Faisalabad so far; 18 are young women are Christian, two are Muslim.

Meanwhile, some media outlets have reported stories of poor young women and girls tricked by promises of a better life and ending up in China to be sold and forced into prostitution.

Shahid Anwar, diocesan coordinator for Justice and Peace in Faisalabad, told AsiaNews that the number of fake marriages between Chinese and Christian girls has gotten out of hand. Criminal gangs exploit poor Christian families and blind them with promises of money, then use the girls in the sex industry, forced labour and other humiliating situations.”

Given the situation, "The Pakistani government and the Chinese consulate should take decisive action against this human trafficking, verifying visas and marriage certificates. For their part, civil society groups should raise awareness about human trafficking, especially involving children and religious minorities, who are the easiest victims."

Yasir Talib, a human rights activist, blames first and foremost Pastor Zahid (picture 3). "It is shameful that this man and his cronies play with their faith and accept to register fake marriages for money.”

Talib and his partners work to raise awareness about the problem among Christian families. "We tell them that they must not be stupid,” he said, “falling into the hands of groups who tempt them to marry off their daughters to young Chinese men.”

"The Chinese ‘husbands’ even go through a church marriage, just to deceive. After marriage, they sell the daughters for huge sums of money. For them it is trade, but the lives and faith of these families are affected forever."

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