Our Desk | How much of a ‘sham’ is a ‘sham marriage’?

Julie Zhu

In October 2019, the Court of First Instance issued a three-year suspended imprisonment sentence to a “couple” because the court had found them guilty of forging documents in order to register their marriage in Macau.
The couple was composed of a mainland man and a Macau woman.
They first registered their marriage in mainland China. Afterwards, the man applied to immigrate to Macau using “family reunion” as his basis for the move.
During the court proceeding, witnesses who investigated the case said that, at the man’s house, they could not find any items belonging or relating to the woman, his wife. What they did find was a receipt indicating that the man had taken a payment from the woman. In addition, the couple’s WeChat conversation records indicated that the couple’s marital status was fake.
The city’s identification authority and police authority have always cracked down on “sham marriages,” with cases frequently reported during the police authority’s routine press conferences.
According to police information, married couples sometimes divorce so that one of them may marry a Macau local resident, therefore becoming eligible to get a Macau ID, and then divorce again, only to remarry with the previous “real” spouse. Eventually, this could allow for an entire family to obtain Macau IDs. In some cases, individuals pay a commission to an “agent” who will match a Macau local resident with the client, helping the latter to obtain a Macau ID. There are other related types of schemes in addition to these tactics.
According to Macau law, the government authority normally charges suspects with document forgery under law No.6/2004 when illegal entry, illegal staying or deportation are involved.
But how much of a “sham” are these sham marriages actually? In order to answer this question, I must pose another one first: do we believe in platonic love?
“Platonic love is a special emotional and spiritual relationship between two people who love and admire one another because of common interests, a spiritual connection and similar worldviews. It does not involve any type of sexual involvement,” an article from Psychology Today says.
What if these “unauthentically” married couples were engaged in a platonic relationship? That could be one way of looking at it.
However, if we forget about the Platonic Love sophistry for these cases, and instead focus on the administrative procedure of these couples’ marriage registrations, then I wonder, should anybody be put behind bars for these marriages?
Law No.6/2004, article 18, says: “those with intent to hinder the effectiveness of this law, forge ID cards or other official documents to prove identity, forge passports and other travel documents or any other statutory documents required to enter or stay in the Macau SAR, or who forge a permit to stay in the Macau SAR shall be sentenced to two to eight years’ imprisonment.” This is the article frequently used by the government authority to charge suspects with “sham marriage” accusations.
Article No.19 of the same law says “anyone who intends to evade the effect of this law and make a false statement or false certification regarding identity, marital status, or other qualifications granted to him or others by law to a public authority of a civil servant performing his duties shall be sentenced to a maximum of three years in prison.”
However, when all documents are official, duly issued by government authorities, how come these individuals are the accused ones? The government “married” them and “certified” their marriage.

Categories Opinion