The areas around several public housing projects in Taipei City have become a breeding ground for sham-marriage scams, where money-minded Chinese women allegedly accost elderly veterans and trick them into marriage for a share of their estates, according to a Taipei city councilor.
A growing number of Chinese women, some who have been married more than once, frequently cluster close to public housing converted from large-scale military dependents’ villages and chat up elderly veterans, Taipei City Councilor Lee Hsin (李新) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) said.
According to Lee, once one of these women has talked a veteran into marrying her, she would prevail on her husband to “seize the day” and smoke and drink without restraint, while feeding him tonics and frequently demanding sexual intercourse.
“This behavior shows that these ‘occupational’ Chinese spouses ostensibly only seek to first obtain their husbands’ money, then indirectly take the lives of their husbands,” Lee said.
He added that while the reprehensible scheme is tantamount to murder, concerned agencies have been turning a blind eye.
Lee brought the sham marriages to light after a complaint from a Taipei resident, identified only by her surname, Tsai (蔡).
According to Tsai, she resorted to Lee after recently discovering that her 87-year-old father, who lives alone on Muzha Road in the city after losing his wife and who has developed symptoms of dementia, has become acquainted with a number of Chinese spouses of veterans in a nearby park.
These women, Tsai said, are particularly courteous to single or widowed veterans, while giving the cold shoulder to those who still have a wife.
Citing first-hand experience, Tsai said that on one occasion, when she accompanied her father to take a stroll at the park, a woman with a strong Chinese accent quickly approached her father the minute she lagged behind.
“Ignore those witches. I will rush to your side and minister to you once my other half kicks the bucket,” Tsai quoted the woman as saying to her father.
Worrying that her father, who had expressed a desire to find a companion, could fall victim to the women’s sugarcoated words, Tsai made an appeal to a district office that it should notify her should her father attempt to alter his residential records. However, her request was denied.
Lee said that according to statistics provided by the Department of Civil Affairs (DCA), the number of city residents who have married after the age of 65 in the past three years stood at 346, 338 and 320 respectively.
Statistics released by the Executive Yuan’s Veterans Affairs Commission (VAC) also showed that the country now sees an average of between 500 and 700 veterans remarrying each year, with 80 percent of them tying the knot with a Chinese woman, Lee said.
According to regulations set forth in the Act of Military Service for Officers and Non-commissioned Officers of the Armed Forces (陸海空軍軍官士官服役條例), the bereaved spouse of a veteran is, if she refuses to collect indemnity in one lump sum, entitled to receive half of the veteran’s retirement pension.
A DCA official said that a 95-year-old man surnamed Lai (賴), who went to a household registration office in Wanhua District (萬華) in August with a recently divorced Chinese woman to register their marriage, was only able to escape a sham marriage because of the astute observations of the official.
“After sensing that something was not right about the seemingly genuine couple, she immediately alerted a borough chief and the city’s Veteran Services Department, and eventually successfully uncovered and stopped a fraudulent marriage,” the official said.
The official said that most household registration office employees, when seeing couples with a large difference in age, tend to ascertain the senior party’s determination to get married by raising detailed questions pertaining to the couple’s relationship, while keeping a close watch on the responses and attitude of the accompanying woman.
While the set of probing questions — such as how long have the two people known each other and whether they are certain about getting married — may prompt complaints from the women, the official said, officials would notify family members of the parties involved, as well as concerned agencies, if necessary.
Although people are entitled to freedom of marriage and government agencies are in no position to intervene, a VAC official said, concerned departments would still step in when potential marriage fraud is detected to curb cases of fraud, or even thuggery.
At present, the total number of veterans in this country amounts to more than 442,000, according to VAC statistics, with 239,301 of them aged 65 or above.
Meanwhile, the number of Chinese spouses in Taiwan has increased to 315,785 in August, from about 300,000 in April last year, the Ministry of the Interior said.
The 2008 results of a random survey conducted every five years by the National Immigration Agency, which aims to gauge which male age bracket has the highest inclination of marrying a foreign spouse, found that men aged between 35 and 44 (41 percent) are most likely to do so.
In second place are men aged between 45 and 54 (24 percent), followed by those aged 65 or above (9.6 percent).
Additional reporter by Lo Tien-pin and Chen Hui-ping