‘Foreign bride’ from Cambodia to make history in Taiwan vote
A woman derided as a “foreign bride” after her cash-strapped Cambodian family married her off through a broker is set to make history at Taiwan’s elections next week.
Ms Lin Li-chan is running for lawmaker in the parliamentary vote – held alongside the presidential election – and is expected to win, making her the island’s first “new immigrant” legislator.
The term refers to those who came to Taiwan after the first wave of migration from China post-1949, when the island split from the mainland following a civil war.
The 38-year-old told AFP: “I had never thought about going into politics. In Cambodia, democracy was not a familiar concept.
“It’s unbelievable how life turns out.”
She was set up by her mother with a Taiwanese husband via a profit-making brokerage at the age of 20.
She moved from the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh to become one of Taiwan’s tens of thousands of immigrant spouses, mainly from Southeast Asia and China.
She said: “My father had passed away and my mother was struggling financially at that time.
“She decided to marry me off and the relatives on my father’s side were angry, thinking she sold me to Taiwan.
“’Foreign brides’ like us were labelled as products and looked down upon.”
Unable to speak a word of Chinese, Ms Lin was wracked with homesickness but determined to adapt.
She picked up the language as she took care of her two children and helped at her husband’s small hardware factory.
But when her children doubted she could help with homework because of her Chinese, she decided to go to college.
She went on to university and a master’s degree before becoming an award-winning campaigner for new immigrants.
She said: “I took my graduation robe to Cambodia when I went back to sweep my parents’ graves and tell them the good news, and I cried.”
Looking back, Ms Lin — who is still with the husband she married at 20 — says she does not bear any animosity to her mother.
“I was a naive young woman and I didn’t think too much about it. I just obeyed my mother’s decision.”