China Daily just published my latest column, a version of the speech I delivered a few weeks ago, titled Marriage reform empowers people to follow their hearts. Here’s an excerpt from that piece:
On a summer day in 2004, a young Chinese man and a young woman from the United States walked up to a stage draped in burgundy velvet curtains, before the red national flag and the red-and-gold national seal of China at an office in Shanghai. They stood to the side as a government representative－a 30-something woman with a floppy ponytail－asked them to remain faithful and respectful to one another, to care for their parents, to support each other, and to maintain harmony in the family. Then they signed two small red books on the podium, and held those books up beside their smiling faces, as photographers snapped away and the young government representative beamed. By the powers granted her by the People’s Republic of China, the couple became legally married.
That was the day my husband Jun and I registered our marriage, a moment we had envisioned ever since January of that same year, when he had proposed to me over the phone. But none of this－the proposal, and the subsequent marriage registration－would have happened in 2004 without a very significant change that took place in China on Oct 1, 2003.
On that date, a reform of China’s Marriage Law took effect, abolishing a previous requirement: approval by your employer or work unit to register your marriage. In Shanghai, this change applied to students too, like Jun, who was in a graduate program at the time. The prior regulation had barred us from even considering marriage for a simple reason－universities would not permit it.
Thanks to this reform of the Marriage Law, we could move forward to register our marriage without concern over any impact on Jun’s graduate studies.
The only approval that mattered in the process was our own.
We weren’t the only ones that year who took advantage of the change. According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics, 2004 stood out as a boom year for marriage registrations across the country, with 8.67 million couples tying the knot, a rise of nearly 7 percent over 2003. At the time, it represented the largest year-on-year increase in marriage registrations in China since 1986.
You can read the full piece here online. And if you like it, share it!
P.S.: Yes, that photo above was taken the day my husband and I registered our marriage!