More than 100 Vietnamese women "sold" as brides by a matchmaker have vanished in China and it's not clear whether they have fled to their homeland or something more sinister has happened. According to the China Daily, the women married bachelors in villages in Hebei province this year and vanished en masse late last month, along with the matchmaker who charged men around $18,000 each to marry the women. Before disappearing, the women told their husbands they were going for a meal with other Vietnamese brides in the area.
Some of the men fear they have been cheated out of their cash, but according to a report in the Jinghua Daily, at least one woman later returned to her husband, saying she had "lost consciousness" after the meal and awoke in a small house far away, where she was told she would be going elsewhere to find a husband. Chinese authorities say cross-border marriage brokerages are illegal, but bride-buying is common in some rural areas of China, where men can't afford traditional betrothal gifts for local women. A gender gap caused by the one-child policy combined with a preference for boys is growing, with the official birth figures now at 118 boys for every 100 girls, Reuters notes. (Earlier this year, 11 people in China were arrested for stealing "corpse brides.")