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SINGAPORE - The allure of Singaporean men among Chinese women?
A ticket out of poverty. A comfortable home. A stable marriage.
Happily ever after? Not for some China-born women who have had their hopes dashed after they marry the men of their dreams.
And the result can be tragic.
Like Chinese national Madam Chen Liwen, 27, who describes her life the past six years here as "a nightmare".
She is prostituting herself to pay off her husband's debts.
She admits in Mandarin: "I have only myself to blame."
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She shuddered with fear and broke down when she read a report in the Chinese newspapers about the coroner's inquiry into the deaths of Madam Zhang Xiaohui and Mr Don Lin Jun Yang, she tells The New Paper on Sunday.
Mr Lin's womanising and drug addiction had driven China-born Madam Zhang to depression.
She ended up killing herself and her husband by burning charcoal in the bedroom. They died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
From the sparsely-decorated living room of her three-room HDB flat in Woodlands, Madam Chen says: "It's so sad. My heart tightened in sorrow and compassion because I know just how Madam Zhang must have felt.
"Despair is a scary monster. It makes you wonder why you should still want to persist and carry on with life."
She clenches both hands and, with a look of determination, says: "But suicide is not an option. Neither will I kill the man who has made my life miserable.
"Why should I let him have it easy?"
Madam Chen was working as a waitress in a Chinatown restaurant when she first met her Singaporean husband.
He dated her a week later and they ended up having sex on that first date.
"It took me about two years to save up enough money so that I could come here," she says.
"I was drawn to the promise of a good life should I marry a Singapore man."
She dreamed of a husband who would whisk her away from her impoverished life in Hangzhou, China.
Her father is a farmer and her mother works as a toilet cleaner at a tourist spot.
She says: "I didn't want to end up marrying someone poor from my village. I didn't want to end up like my mother."
She then says with with a touch of irony: "As if my life now is much better than my mum's."
Her high hopes were buoyed when she met the man who claimed that he was "running his own construction business". He is a freelance renovation contractor in reality.
She confesses that she enjoyed being showered with gifts like a watch, a diamond ring ("although the stone's really tiny") and a gold bracelet.
When he travelled on company trips (that turned out to be renovation contracts), she would accompany him.
He was the "ideal" man. "The man of my dreams," she says.
He also loved going for cruises. "We'd go on a cruise every one to two weeks," says Madam Chen.
He'd leave her to enjoy the facilities and programmes offered on the cruise liner while he went off to "network and make money".
Madam Chen claims: "I didn't suspect anything at first. It was only much later that I found out that it just meant he was gambling."
About 10 months after they started dating, a woman, accompanied by three female friends, approached her at the restaurant.
"All the 'huang lian po' (sallow-faced woman) wanted to know was, 'Are you serious about him?'
"And she added: 'If you are, get him to agree to our divorce. You can have him. And good luck to you.'"
It turned out that the man she had been dating was married and this was his wife. Madam Chen felt somewhat cheated at first, but she believed that matters had turned in her favour.
Soon, she was so pleased with the situation that she agreed to go through only a customary wedding, without registering their marriage.
The wedding lunch was a simple affair at a restaurant and was attended by her husband's family members and some of his close friends.
He also paid for her parents to come here for a two-week visit.
Madam Chen says: "I still remember laughing at his ex-wife's stupidity. I even told my 'jie mei' (sisters, a term that Chinese nationals use to describe their friends) that the wife didn't know what she was giving up.
"Well, it's more a case of I didn't know what I was getting into."
That was six years ago.
Shame and fear
What's left now are bleak days of shame and fear, says Madam Chen. Her gambler-husband has chalked up more than $30,000 in debts.
"When he couldn't pay the interest for his debts, he pleaded with me to talk to two of his creditors.
"I thought, since I'm also friends with them and they were invited to our wedding, it was okay."
The first couple of visits managed to buy extra time for her husband. To help him pay off the debts, Madam Chen took on part-time home cleaning jobs during her rest days.
She says: "I just wanted to focus on clearing everything so that we could have a happy life together.
"I felt then that he was only having a spot of bad luck."
Just when she thought they had only $5,000 left of the debts, he dropped another bombshell.
The electricity supply to their flat had been cut off and when she asked him about it, he broke down.
"I was angry because I'd given him money to pay the bill. During our argument, he revealed that he owed another $35,0
"My heart went cold. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. It was like a 'wu di dong' (bottomless hole)."
Unable to take the shock, Madam Chen called a friend and spent a week at her home.
"While I was considering my options, my husband sent me a text message one day and said he has worked out a good instalment plan but needed my help."
Madam Chen puts her head down and covers it with her both hands and sobs for some minutes.
Then she looks up and whispers: "It was payment with sex. I just have to have sex with his creditors and they'd deduct the debts accordingly.
"Sometimes, the creditors may recommend me to their contacts and that also goes to paying off my husband's debts."
It's an arrangement that has been going for nearly two years now. She believes that everything will be cleared this year.
She insists that she is not told how much changes hands after each session of sex.
"If you want, you can ask my husband and see if he'd tell you," she challenges me.
When approached about the allegations, Madam Chen's husband, 39, didn't deny them.
He says: "She's from China. What is there for her to 'ban qing gao' (act pure and lofty)?
"I don't ask her to work in Geylang and it's not like I'm pimping her.
"If she is not happy, she can leave. No one is stopping her.
"Why won't she just admit she's still clinging on to me in the hope of getting something?
"If she loves me like she claims, she will do her part and get us out of this rut more quickly."
"This is my retribution"
Madam Chen, who has quit her waitressing job, continues to work as a part-time cleaner.
"We still need money for our daily expenses," she says.
"This is my retribution. I have to live with the folly of my ways. Now, I don't even want a man, just my life and independence back.
"But before I leave him, I want him to compensate me for the agony."
Sometimes, it's hard for Madam Chen to go through the day because there's no one to confide in.
"When I tell my friends from China what happened, they'd jeer at me for being a failure," she says.
"I feel that friends, especially women from Singapore, are likely to be unsympathetic. After all, I was a homewrecker."
Some friends have advised her to leave her husband, but Madam Chen says: "I feel very 'bu gan yuan' (reluctant). It's difficult for me to want to carry on my life this way, but it is just as tough if I choose to walk away."
And as she is not a permanent resident, it also means that she may have to return to China if she leaves her husband.
"I am no longer young and I have no value in the singles market."
She says with a steely voice: "I want him to compensate me for ruining my life.
"I will help him settle his debts and, after that, I want him to sell off his HDB flat and return me my dues."