Ghost Marriage and Crime in China

Professor Wing  Lo1, Dr  Sharon  Kwok2
1City University of Hong Kong , Kowloon, Hong Kong, 2Western Sydney University, Sydney, Australia

Ghost marriage or posthumous marriage has been a traditional folklore for centuries in rural areas of China.  After an unmarried man died, his family would buy a single dead woman as bride and arrange a ghost marriage, so as to fulfil some village norms, such as the man’s succession of property and land rights. For the dead bride, the marriage would help her settle down in the man’s family and not to become a ranger-ghost, according to the folklore.

Rapid economic growth in China has made the farmers affordable to pay for a dead bride, ranging from 50,000 to 200,000 yuan depending on the freshness of the corpse, and age and background of the deceased.  Consequently, crimes arise as a business response to the demand of corpse in the market. Crimes, such as stealing of corpses from graves, selling of corpses, and even kidnapping and murder of women, especially mentally retarded women, were reported.  The illegal business is organized as an enterprise that uses rational cost-benefit analysis. Flexible, social and entrepreneurial networks are developed with perpetrators performing different roles, including ghost bride agents, corrupt hospital workers, ghost bride matchmakers, tomb-raider, and other forms of criminals. They are individuals with diverse backgrounds who share a common goal of money-making, and who collaborate through ad hoc, flexible and horizontal social networks in response to the dynamic ghost marriage business environments. The illegal business is enacted through an entrepreneurial model, not an extra-legal governance or territorial model often occurred in Chinese organized crime.


Biography:

Wing Lo is Head and Professor of the Department of Social and Behavioural Sciences at City University of Hong Kong. He received his PhD in criminology from the University of Cambridge (1991). He is Founding Editor of the Routledge Studies in Asian Behavioral Sciences, member of the International Advisory Board/Editorial Board of the British Journal of Criminology, Youth Justice, Asian Journal of Criminology, British Journal of Community Justice, and so on. His research interests are triad society, anti-corruption, and offender rehabilitation.

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