A video of a woman chained in a shack recently went viral on the Chinese internet and prompted an investigation and discussion about human trafficking and mental health in China.
The troubling video first blew up when a vlogger posted it to Douyin, China’s version of TikTok, on January 27. The footage shows a woman — identified as a mother of eight — with a light layer of clothes and a chain around her neck in a shabby hut in Xuzhou, a city in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu.
The local government has since issued three statements in response, as outraged netizens urged officials to investigate and intervene.
On February 7, the Xuzhou city government issued the latest update, claiming that the woman is originally from Yunnan province in southwestern China but went missing in 1996. The statement also said she had been hospitalized for schizophrenia and was in a stable health condition.
Previously, officials of Feng county in Xuzhou, where the woman was filmed chained, sent out two announcements shortly after the video emerged online.
The county government identified the woman by her last name, Yang, and said she was legally married to a local man surnamed Dong in 1998, two months after Dong’s father found her on the street. It said she was chained in the shed because she is mentally ill and was violent toward the elders and kids.
However, netizens who’ve followed the investigation closely are questioning the official statements. The hashtag for the latest update had 350 million views on Weibo at the time of writing.
Lawyer Peng Ruiping has refuted the investigation results point by point and called for the central government to “conduct a thorough investigation.”
“If I didn’t follow the whole thing, I wouldn’t know the latest update was talking about the same person and the same incident as the last two,” a Weibo user opined. “It took so much effort to trace her origin, and there’s no explanation or punishment for the man, which shows that the local government is absent of legal awareness and will not deal with it seriously.”
“I really hope no more innocent girls are forced to become baby-making machines. To speak up for this is also speaking up for ourselves,” the netizen added.
Many women have expressed their concerns online and pushed for further investigation, including some who’ve shared their own human trafficking experiences.
Young woman supporting the chained woman in Xuzhou: “Dong Zhiqiang of Feng county raped a woman of mental illness, had 8 kids, & received govt subsidies. Sister, the world has not given up on you. Your sister is here!”– and it was taken down by the police within 10 min pic.twitter.com/OciR1Ic2X6— Ting (@tingguowrites) February 7, 2022
Young woman supporting the chained woman in Xuzhou: “Dong Zhiqiang of Feng county raped a woman of mental illness, had 8 kids, & received govt subsidies. Sister, the world has not given up on you. Your sister is here!”
– and it was taken down by the police within 10 min pic.twitter.com/OciR1Ic2X6
— Ting (@tingguowrites) February 7, 2022
“This is why we cannot accept whitewashing a tragedy. It’s possible that one of us could become her,” wrote a Weibo user, citing comics drawn by vlogger @TiAn咸鱼安. The original comics were taken down from the vlogger’s account for unknown reasons, but she gave permission for people to repost them (see below).
"The Distance between Her and Her", by Weibo user "TiAn咸鱼安" pic.twitter.com/MaKqlxm40Z— Yao Lin 林垚 (@dikaioslin) February 7, 2022
"The Distance between Her and Her", by Weibo user "TiAn咸鱼安" pic.twitter.com/MaKqlxm40Z
— Yao Lin 林垚 (@dikaioslin) February 7, 2022
Some netizens have even created a shared document — which now requires registration and permission to access — calling for leads in Yang’s case and other cases of missing women and people with mental health issues in rural China.
Cover photo via Depositphotos
We highlight our top stories each week in an email newsletter that goes out every Monday - hot, fresh, and straight to your inbox.
Don't worry, we don't spam
Thousands of earthlings have signed up for our newsletter, and you should do the same