Property policies force couples to divorce or fake marriages

BEIJING, (Xinhua) -- Many have complained that Chinese marriages are losing their romantic side to pragmatic calculation, partly due to new housing policies.

   A string of new housing price control policies have sparked concern, as some couples have tried to sidestep the restrictions by getting divorced or by entering into "fake" marriages.
   Detailed housing price regulations aimed at cooling the property market were rolled out in many cities at the beginning of this year following a central government regulatory plan issued in February.
   According to a new rule introduced by the Beijing government, single adults with permanent Beijing residence registration are banned from buying second homes, leading some to speculate that people may enter into "false" marriages to skirt the regulation.
   This is not the first time that the links between marital status and housing controls have come under fire in China.
   In early March, the State Council said that a 20-per cent individual income tax would be levied on capital gains by home sellers whose families own more than one apartment.
   Days after the new regulation was put into force, couples across the country flocked to register for divorce to avoid the tax.
   A restriction of the number of family residences in big cities has also led to divorce for some.
   Zhang Zhongliang, 39, decided to divorce his wife -- not to end their 18-year relation, but to allow for the purchase of the family's third apartment.
In order to better take care of their son, the couple decided to buy an apartment near the school he is scheduled to attend. But the city government only allows them to have two apartments at most.
   "I have no alternative but to divorce and more might be forced to walk this way," said Zhang, who lives in Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei Province.
   "After we get divorced, my wife will claim our apartments so that I can buy a new apartment as a first-home buyer, since I don't have a house under my name. We will remarry after that," Li said, adding that he got the idea from a local newspaper.
   The number of people seeking divorce has increased dramatically over the past month, said an employee of the Civil Affairs Bureau of Wuhan's Wuchang District who declined to be named.
   A report carried by the China Youth Daily recently said 1,255 couples registered to divorce from March 4 to 8, in north China's Tianjin municipality, marking a 470-per cent increase compared with the number that registered in the previous week.
   "The 'fake' divorces and marriages reveal design defects and loopholes in the country's property control policies," said Xia Xueluan, a professor from the sociology department of Peking University.
   And Prof. Qiao Xinsheng, at the Wuhan-based Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, said every family should be prudent before making such a decision, adding that he believes flexible modern attitudes regarding  marriage have contributed to the phenomenon.
   "The policies should be the main area of focus, as opposed to people's attitudes toward marriage," Qiao said.
   Economists have called for building a sound property market in accordance with the principles of a market economy. 
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