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Fianna Lin: My cross-strait relationship

Fianna Lin: My cross-strait relationship
by Xin Ma

For over 30 years, the 180km-wide Taiwan Strait had been the largest barrier separating people on two sides, physically, culturally and politically. However, it never separates lovers living on two sides of the strait.

“I didn't believe in online dating or long-distance relationships, till I knew him,” says 23-year-old Fianna, “It's just destiny, whether you believe or not.” Into the fifth year of the long-distance relationship, clearly her passion still focuses on Jay, who she met on MSN one high school summer holiday.

I first meet her in a sunny classroom, as we are enrolled in the same course of Asian Popular Culture. Her face flushed red when she presented in class, jumping up and down with her hands pointing straight forward, to explain how the ghosts jump in Taiwanese movies, which made the class burst into laugh. That was a few months ago, shortly after she settled down in Sydney from Taipei.

The second time I meet with her, here in a chic café at Broadway Mall, wearing a grey hoodie and jeans, Fianna is more relaxed and conversational than she appears in class. Unlike other Asian girls who are often too shy to talk about relationship, Fianna is surprisingly open with me. “I’m a very traditional girl, and never believed the ‘love-at-the-first-click’ thing. But it did happen to me.”

The story begins when Fianna clicked yes on a friend request on MSN. “At that time, I never had a mainlander friend on my MSN. I was just curious,” she smiles with a grin. “Neither of us expected it going anywhere at the start. Soon we found out we shared a lot in common. Then we talked longer and longer each time we met. I had never met someone like him in real life.” A few weeks later, when meeting on MSN at 9pm becomes fixed on their schedule, they both felt the heat between them. However, it was not until six months later that they arranged their first date in the real world. Since the Taiwan government had a strict ban on mainland visitors, they decided to meet in Hong Kong on Christmas 2003.

“My parents were the hardest part.” Fianna admits her parents had no idea of her relationship with Jay till three days before Christmas. “They were totally mad at me and did everything they could to stop me going to Hong Kong.” Sipping iced coffee, she pauses when recalling the family storm before her departure. “In fact, my parents don’t mind he’s a mainlander, but they’ve heard too many horrible stories of online dating, and were worried about my safety. But at that time I felt like nothing can stop me, no matter what they said.”

Like the old Chinese saying “No parents can win their kids”, Fianna’s parents finally agreed. But as a compromise, her mother and sister companied her to Hong Kong. “I’m very lucky growing up in a light Blue family. My parents don’t mind he’s a mainlander. That wasn’t what was worrying them. They became supportive when getting to know him.”

(Fianna’s parents support Kuomingtang (KMT, the ruling party – also called the Blue Party), which favors a more conciliatory approach to Beijing and wants to encourage closer ties. On the other head, many supporters of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP, the biggest opposition party) still regard Communist China as Taiwan’s biggest threat. The recent anti-China rally in Taipei is an example. Over 500,000 people attended the rally organized by the opposition DPP to condemn the government of President Ma Ying-jeou and his engagement policies with mainland China.)

In spite of the physical distance, the couple is also facing obstacles in terms of cultural and social pressures. Taiwan and China have been ruled separately since Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist (KMT) forces retreated to the island in 1949 during a civil war with Mao Zedong's Communists. Until the late 1980s, nearly 30 years’ segregation have created a great political and cultural gulf between people on either side of the Taiwan Strait. Fianna admits that many mainland housewives in Taiwan are often discriminated against, finding it difficult to get a job or receive equal social welfare.

Moreover, only a week before the anti-China rally, a senior mainland cross-strait official Zhang Mingqing, was physically attacked by pro-independence protesters during his visit in Taiwan. The 69-year-old was chased, then pushed to the ground and punched in the head by pro-independence protesters in front of the cameras. “I’m not a political person,” Fianna sighs, “but I feel ashamed of the DDP. They ruined Taiwan’s reputation in the world.”

Talking about the wedding is a quick way to bring back her sweetest smile. A few months ago, Jay proposed to her while they were traveling in Tasmania. “I was cleaning dishes after dinner, when he came along and held me from the back. All of a sudden, he got down on his knees and asked me to marry him,” she recalls, her face lighting up. “Before I realized anything, the ring was already on my finger.”

Fianna says they are planning to have two weddings, one in Taiwan, and the other in Fuzhou, Jay’s hometown. The two cities are only 180km away, separated by Taiwan Strait. For the last five years, the couple has been expecting the government to lift the travel ban on mainlanders. “I hope they can lift the ban before February next year, then Jay’s family can attend our wedding in Taipei. Otherwise, somehow I feel the wedding will not be as perfect as I have always dreamed.”

Glancing to the right, Fianna sits quietly, looking out of the window when people crowding into the small café. To have families to witness their happiness, that is probably the wedding gift that Fianna and Jay – and for many other couples across Taiwan Strait – most want. Are they asking for too much? The upcoming meeting between the two sides' officials in November may give them an answer.

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