KARACHI: The Chinese Embassy in Islamabad has withheld 90 visas of “Pakis­tani brides” and launched an investigation into 142 cross-border marriages that took place in 2018.

In an interview with UrduNews on Tuesday, deputy chief of mission at Chinese Embassy Lijian Zhao said that last year about 142 Pakistani women had applied for wedding visas after marrying Chinese nationals. This year, so far 140 Pakistani brides had applied for such visas, he added.

The embassy, the envoy said, had withheld at least 90 visa applications and alerted the Pakistani authorities.

On Monday, 11 Chinese citizens were sent to jail on judicial remand and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) was directed to submit a charge sheet against them. The suspects are allegedly involved in contracting fake marriages with Pakistani women and forcing them into prostitution after taking them to China.

Talking about recent reports of abuse, the diplomat denied claims in media about Pakistani women being subjected to forced prostitu­tion and organ sale in China.

“Lies are being spread on the internet and the media. They are talking about Pakistani girls being sent to China for forced prostitution or sale of organs. That is totally fabricated and for sensational purposes. There is no evidence of that,” he said.

He said that out of 142 marriages, only a few isolated cases of harassment or torture had been reported. All marriages, he claimed, were legal and registered after due process.

“The Chinese men came to Pakistan after obtaining their visas from the Pakis­tani Embassy. Then they obtained marriage certificates from union councils and approa­ched the registrar. In the fourth level, they get [their credentials] verified from the foreign ministry and then they get their documents verified from the Chinese Embassy. In the sixth stage, they apply for visas of their spouses, so all the marriages are legal,” he explained.

He added that Chinese authorities were trying to provide a cover and support to the legal marriages.

“We are trying to track if there is any problem. We are ready to help those girls if there is any issue,” he said.

The envoy asked the Pak­istani government to review its visa-on-arrival policy for Chinese businessmen as some marriage bureaus in Pakistan were misusing it.

He said the Pakistani authorities should probe the role of those institutions and chambers of commerce and industries which were inviting businessmen without verifying their identity.

The envoy said that a mechanism had been devis­ed during a recent visit of a Chinese task force to Pak­istan, under which any Pak­istani could seek help from Chinese authorities via telephone in connection with the marriages. “The government of China and police will help if there is any problem,” he maintained.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2019