Marriage in China used to be a matter for a man, a woman -- and the couple's employers. No longer. \nOn Wednesday, China eliminated a much-resented requirement for couples to obtain their bosses' approval before tying the knot, prompting thousands of couples to wed in what, for some, was also a celebration of the retreat of outside interference in their private lives. \nCouples lined up as early as 5am outside marriage registration offices. Restaurants and hotel banquet halls were booked solid in major cities, and Beijing's streets were clogged with flower-bedecked motorcades. \n"Employers in work units used to have a lot of power over people, but now there's no need," said newlywed Wen Ying, who was having a late-night snack with her new husband and friends at a small restaurant near the Forbidden City, Beijing's ancient imperial palace. \n"We're really glad that this rule was canceled because it was a real hassle. It makes getting married feel even better," said Wen's husband, Liu Ping. Liu said the couple had planned to throw a formal banquet for their families, but were forced to postpone because restaurants were all reserved by others. \nCouples said "I do" Wednesday at mass ceremonies in city squares, at tree planting ceremonies and even at a Beijing drive-in theater, which transported brides to the ceremony on horseback. One couple exchanged vows submerged in an aquarium -- diving bells over their heads -- while tropical fish swam past. \nThe new marriage rules are among social reforms that increasingly are freeing private lives from unpopular government controls. Also beginning Wednesday, couples won't be required to get health checks to marry, and those wishing to divorce can do so without attending lengthy government mediation sessions. \nMany couples held off registering their weddings until the change took effect, and long lines formed at government offices around the country Wednesday, China Central Television reported. The official Xinhua News Agency said tens of thousands of couples registered their marriages. \nWen said staff at the wedding registry dressed up the office with flowers and played Mendelssohn's wedding march to commemorate the new rules. \n"They were really nice. It's a special day," she said. \nThe old marriage law was a throwback to an era when all Chinese worked for the state or communes and needed permission to travel, get an education or marry. \nThe employer's letter was intended to serve as proof that both bride and groom weren't already married to other people. However, the requirement became a source of corruption -- some employers demanded bribes in exchange for their consent. \nXinhua acknowledged that in a report this week, saying the old rules were "just a formality or moneymaking procedure in some areas." \nUnder the new regulations, couples must show ID cards and residency papers and sign a document stating they are not married or related. Officials have threatened to punish bureaucrats who persist in requiring health exams or demand illegal fees from those wishing to marry. \nAmong other recent reforms, the government said last month that tens of millions of Chinese can now apply for passports without approval from their employers. \nBut one of the most disliked official restrictions -- the household registration system that dictates where Chinese may live -- is still in effect. The government has given no indication that it might be repealed.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
They stand as eyesores to most passers-by and potential public health risks to authorities, decaying buildings wrapped in tangles of exposed wire, studded with protruding leaky plastic pipes, vegetation billowing from cracks and terraces where particulates from polluted air have accumulated over time. With skyscrapers and ultramodern developments on every side, some of these “nail houses” are also sitting on land worth millions of dollars in Shenzhen’s inferno of a property market, where new-unit and second-hand home prices rival London. In battles over land and development, the nail house phenomenon has become widespread throughout China over the past two decades, with owners
An Italian alpine resort on Friday remained on high alert over fears that a vast chunk of a glacier on the slopes of the Mont Blanc massif could plummet in high temperatures. “No one gets through! No cars, bikes or pedestrians,” was the message at a checkpoint where an automatic barrier and two guards blocked the small road snaking up into a lush valley below the Planpincieux glacier, near the town of Courmayeur and the Italian-French border. The blockade has largely been greeted with contempt by the locals, one of whom said: “It’s a joke.” The huge ice block measuring around 500,000 cubic
SHOW OF SOLIDARITY: The publisher’s ‘Apple Daily’ newspaper has had to raise the number of copies printed from 70,000 to 550,000 to meet a huge surge in demand They have occupied Hong Kong’s central business district, marched by the hundreds of thousands through the territory’s streets and endured tear gas and pepper spray in pitched battles with riot police. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy supporters are now wielding a new protest weapon: their stock-market trading accounts. To show support for Jimmy Lai (黎智英), the publisher and outspoken government critic who was on Monday arrested under the territory’s new national security legislation, Hong Kongers have been piling into shares of his media company Next Digital. The result: a more than 1,100 percent surge in two days that propelled the stock to a seven-year