SHANGHAI - Police in northern China are investigating the disappearance of more than 100 Vietnamese women who had been sold as wives to Chinese men via a broker who is also missing, the China Daily reported on Thursday.
The women vanished from Handan county in Hebei province near Beijing at the end of November, and an unidentified official suspected the disappearance was organised, according to the newspaper.
Since the start of the year, a woman from Vietnam who married a local man and had been living in the country for around 20 years, said she could introduce bachelors to Vietnamese brides.
"If they liked each other, the man would pay ... an amount of money based on his and the woman's ages, and then they could marry," the report said.
One man, who the newspaper said paid 115,000 yuan (S$24,400) for a bride, was told by the broker's father-in-law she had gone abroad to arrange residency permits for the Vietnamese brides so they could settle in China.
The unidentified official said bride buying had become "a local tradition" in rural areas.
The newspaper quoted the police of Handan as saying international matchmaking services and cross-border marriage brokerages were illegal, and the case may be related to human trafficking.
A cultural preference for male offspring coupled with China's one-child policy have created a wide gender gap that has made it hard for some men to marry.
The official birth rate for first-born children showed 118 boys for every 100 girls, against 113 boys for 100 girls just four years ago, according to a United Nations women's rights watchdog.