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Chinese Employers Are Left at the Altar

Couples nationwide rush to wed as a law requiring their bosses' approval is cast aside.

October 02, 2003|From Associated Press

BEIJING — Marriage in China used to be a matter between a man, a woman -- and the couple's employers. No longer.

China on Wednesday eliminated a much-resented requirement that couples obtain their bosses' approval before tying the knot, prompting thousands of people to wed in what, for some, was also a celebration of the retreat of interference in their private lives.

Couples lined up as early as 5 a.m. outside marriage registration offices. Restaurants and banquet halls were booked solid in major cities, and Beijing's streets were clogged with flower-bedecked motorcades.

"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.

"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.

Couples said "I do" at mass ceremonies in city squares, at tree-planting ceremonies and at a Beijing drive-in theater, which brought brides to the ceremony on horseback.

The new rules are among social reforms that increasingly are freeing private lives from unpopular government controls. Couples also are no longer required to get health checks to marry, and those wishing to divorce can do so without attending mediation sessions.

Many couples had held off registering to marry until the change took effect, and long lines formed at government offices around the country as soon as it did, China Central Television reported. The official New China News Agency said tens of thousands of couples registered.

The old 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. An employer's letter was intended to serve as proof that neither the bride nor groom already was married. But the requirement became a source of corruption -- some employers demanded bribes for their OK.

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