Today, cross-border marriages between Hong Kong men and mainland women account for almost half of all marriages registered in Hong Kong. Entire communities like Tin Shui Wai have been transformed into havens for new immigrants. Whilst often told of mainland wives fighting over hospital beds, primary school places and milk powder, their own stories are often left untold. The following story was translated from the Chinese original.
I grew up in a poor village in Guangxi
I grew up in a poor village in Guangxi. My father was a soldier and my mom a housewife. I had a little brother and an elder sister who had left our little village for the city when I was still little. Due to my father’s service in army, I only saw him once a year during Chinese New Years. I grew up with my mother, my little brother, and my grandparents. Like many village kids, I never had formal education beyond the village schools.
I had vowed to run away from home
My first recollection as a little girl was that my mom would hit me whenever my brother did something wrong. If he was naughty, mom would hit me. By the time I was 5 years old, it was normal to eat dinner with tears flowing down my cheeks. I vowed that as soon as I was old enough, I will leave for the city just like my elder sister. It was only much later when I realized my mom was only teaching me to tough in facing a cruel world.
With only RMB200, I begged to eat leftovers
On my 16th birthday, without telling my mom, I bought a one-way bus ticket to Nanning, the capital of Guangxi. I only had RMB200 in my pocket from my savings, but I didn’t care. I wanted to find my dream just like my sister did. I got into the bus and never looked back. I had no place to live in the city. On my first few nights, I slept in the back alleys and begged restaurant owners to let me eat their leftovers.
I dreamt a handsome man in a sports car would marry me
At the time, I’d rather be a beggar than to go home. Unless and until I became successful, I refused to show my face to my mom. Shortly, I was introduced to a job as a waitress in a hotel which provided me food and lodging. I was a pretty girl, and had always imagined that whilst crossing the road one day, a sports car driven by a handsome man would come close to hitting me. I would pretend to collapse in his arms and he will ask me to marry him.
My dreams had come true, well, kind of
At the hotel where I worked, I served a Hong Kong businessman, Derick, who was in his mid 30’s and in town for a meeting. He waited till I finished my shift and asked me out on a dinner date. By the end of his stay, he asked me to accompany him to the next town. And I did. After few months of travelling, he asked me to be his wife. Though not the handsome man in a sports car, this was good enough for me.
Hong Kong was a place I found my passion
In Hong Kong, I had found my passion – mahjong. After settling down in a new home, I became friends with other mainland housewives like myself. They will come to my house everyday to play mahjong. We would finish up bottles of baijiu everyday day. As our husbands were often out of town, this was our lives. This lifestyle had went on for many months and they became my network of support in Hong Kong.
My girl friends complained about their cheating husbands
My girl friends would complain about their cheating husbands day and night. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t leave their husbands if they knew all along the affairs. But the more I listened to them, the more suspicious I was of my own husband, as he spent more and more time on “business trips.” I would often wait for him to come home late and scold him on whether he had affairs. The more I scolded, the less he came home.
His clothes had the scent of women’s perfume
Eventually, he would go on one “business trip” after another. When he does eventually come home, he would be drunk with his clothes reeking of women’s perfume. His affairs became an open secret until one afternoon, I received a phone call from a young women. I picked up the phone, and she said, “So, you’re Derick’s wife? I’m his girlfriend.” Being ever so witty, I replied, “Which girlfriend? He has many girlfriends.”
I did not recognise the woman I had become
“No… That’s impossible…“, the young woman said and started crying. I hung up. I felt nothing. I didn’t even recognise the woman I had become. By then, I managed to save up some money, and also borrowed from my girl friends after telling them about my husband. I found a lawyer and asked him to prepare the divorce papers. I specifically instructed my lawyer not to ask even one cent from him. I was no longer the beggar of Nanning.
He packed his things and left the house
When my husband came home that day, he had already knew. His “girlfriend” must have told him already. I told him that I already made an appointment to sign the divorce papers and asked him to go to my lawyer’s office in a few days’ time. He did not dare say one word. He packed his things and left the house. The next day, he told me that he wanted me to keep the house. I said no. I wanted nothing to do with him any more.
Many years have passed. I have since been re-married and now have a 25 year old son with my current husband. I came to realise that I was very broken in the inside, despite the fact that I had felt “nothing” when I divorced my ex-husband. I felt nothing because I was empty inside. The little that was left was shattered into pieces. After my divorce, I spent years trying to find the missing pieces and putting them back together, before I met my current husband, with whom I learned to truly love.