Heartbreak alley for lonely old men

  Star, Malaysia
March 5, 2006

Insight Down South By Seah Chiang Nee

DEJECTED and tearful, the 60-year-old man was relating his plight to two nurses who were trying to console him.

In between sobs, he told of how a woman from China came into his life six months ago. When she heard that he was sickly and under medical treatment, she looked after him, cleaning and cooking.

This had led to a relationship and marriage, in which the couple shared a bank account. One morning the wife disappeared, along with his life savings of S$60,000.

“Today, I have nothing, all my money gone,” he cried. Asked why he had married someone he had barely known, he said, “I was lonely. She cared for me.”

This was my personal encounter with a victim of a social ill frequently reported that arose from the influx of Chinese women who came with just one thing in mind – using sex to make their fortune from married or elderly men.

The decision to open Singapore’s doors to the outside world has led to the arrival of 250,000 foreigners in the past five years, the biggest number from China.

The immigrants brought in talent and economic vibrancy as well as crime and social trouble, pickpockets from Vietnam, smugglers from Indonesia, drug traffickers from Australia, etc.

Most Chinese come for a better life; others – particularly the fiercely ambitious women – are less honest. And increasingly, Singaporean men are making themselves excellent targets.

A number of them who arrive as tourists or mothers to watch over their young children studying here seek out vulnerable men who have retired because of the mandatory Central Provident Fund (CPF) money.

Other scam marriages are aimed at cheating dowry money, a lump sum from the divorce courts or just a PR (permanent residency) permit to stay on in Singapore.

Like electrical engineer Ng Kee Shee, 42, whose marriage to a lady from Hainan Island last year turned into a nightmare when she refused to consummate it. The marriage eventually broke up.

Tens of thousands of young women applied for students’ passes to work in nightclubs and brothels. Others become mistresses to older men or get attached to several men at the same time to earn as much money as possible before going home.

They work as masseuses, part-time prostitutes who blatantly operate – unlike others – in housing board estates, soliciting men as they return home after work.

All this incurs a social cost like cleaning up savings, breaking up families and even causing violence and death.

Last year, a 50-year-old factory supervisor, a responsible husband and father, was charged with killing a Chinese girl who had worked with him and with whom he had an affair.

Leong Siew Chor had apparently spent some money on the girl and could not take it when she wanted to break off. He killed her and dismembered her body, throwing the body parts in several places in what became one of modern Singapore’s most gruesome crimes.

In the latest case, a Chinese woman who was mistress to a Singaporean businessman cheated him of S$100,000 during their rendezvous in Shanghai.

Another, an executive, was stabbed while on a holiday with his Chinese girlfriend at Desaru (Johor) in what was believed to be a contract killing.

But not all the trouble lies on the visitors’ doorstep. In fact, Singaporean men are just as much to blame when passions run high. In most cases, the girls simply return to China, leaving behind sufferings and broken lives.

Singapore’s declining – and rapidly ageing – population has made it very dependent on foreigners for growth.

Immigration has brought in much benefit. Some of the China- and India-born immigrants bring in badly needed talent and creativity that Singapore’s strait-jacketed education system has failed to produce.

In just two years, some 4000 Chinese engineers came. Imported talent today makes up the bulk of the PhD’s doing science research and academic teaching. Others set up business and introduce new markets.

The latest arrivals are entrepreneurs from fast-growing India, who set up enterprises here. Their families come with them, making for an increasingly visible presence in Singapore’s east coast.

In terms of numbers, it is the arrival of the Chinese that is having the biggest impact on the state. From badminton players to restaurateurs, the Chinese have become highly visible.

Thousands of paying children, including top students from the provinces who are here on state scholarship, are filling seats in schools, polytechnics and universities. A liberal scheme is in store for accompanying parents.

At Pearl Centre, a busy shopping complex in Chinatown, some Chinese women who work in foot reflexology shops and massage parlours can be seen inviting customers to enter.

Many are mothers who accompanied their children here for a better education, earning money that represents a small fortune back in their home village by performing special sexual services. But it’s the wuya – or “crows” in Chinese – that has caught the imagination of both Singapore and China since publication of a book exposing them.

A Beijing author Zhu Ziping, writing under a pen name, described them as money-obsessed women, who came seeking to become kept women of wealthy men. Her book allegedly portrays her own life and is based on real characters. She came under attack but shrugged it off.

“Being a tai-tai (rich man’s wife) is the ambition of many mainland girls,” Zhu says. “It is not romantic. Let’s not make it prettier than it is. China is still poor, and young women want better lives.”

o Seah Chiang Nee is a veteran journalist and editor of the information website littlespeck.com