A video of a Chinese mother locked in a hut in rural China with a chain around her neck has ignited a wave of anger and shock across social media.
In the video, a middle-aged woman can be seen seemingly in a daze with a metal chain tied around her neck and chained to a wall. She is standing in a doorless, dilapidated shack and is wearing only a thin layer of clothing despite the visibly frigid temperatures outside.
Next to the shed where she is being kept is a warm house where her husband and eight children reside in Xuzhou, Jiangsu Province. When asked about the woman’s situation and why she was locked up, one of her children said with an emotionless expression that food was brought to her everyday.
Appalled, the man filming the video can be seen bringing some clothes to the woman and helping her put on a jacket. He asks her a few questions but she is unable to answer and just stares off into the distance.
Looking into the camera, the vlogger says, “Everybody please take a look. What has this woman been through in this weather? Where did our compassion go?”
After the video was released on Douyin, a platform that owns Tiktok, it quickly went viral across social media, with many netizens demanding authorities investigate the situation and help the woman.
“She is a person, not an object. After having eight children over 20 years, she is only now being found? None of the government departments and judicial bodies involved are innocent,” one user commented.
Who is the woman in the video?
After the video was posted, authorities in China put out a statement on Jan. 30 dismissing any speculation about a kidnapping. They identified the woman by the last name of Yang and said she is from the Feng County Huankou Townshi in Jiangsu Province.
Authorities added that Ms. Yang had married her husband, identified as Mr. Dong, in 1998 and had been diagnosed with a mental illness. According to the statement, Mr. Dong’s family had told local authorities on several occasions that Ms. Yang was suffering from schizophrenia and was prone to unpredictable violent outbursts.
Upon releasing the statement however, netizens across social media erupted with even more anger and criticized authorities for not having adequate support for people suffering from mental health issues. Many also accused local police of not properly addressing the condition that Ms. Yang was in and ignoring her wellbeing.
The social media storm prompted a second statement from authorities on Sunday, which contained more information about the family’s history and added that officials would begin an investigation into Ms. Yang’s husband.
“Dong is suspected of violating the law. The public security authorities have launched an investigation into it,” the statement said, according to local media reports. The notice also added that Ms. Yang had been admitted to a hospital for treatment and her children had been placed into foster care.
Women prone to abuse in rural China
Many users also discussed the abuse and limited rights experienced by women in China’s rural areas and questioned the circumstances under which Ms. Yang gave birth to her eight children. Some users also wondered how the couple managed to evade the notice of local authorities, given China’s strict family planning restrictions.
China’s One-Child policy was implemented by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1979 and for over three decades, men and women were forced to undergo sterilization in an effort to control the country’s booming population.
The policy was so stringenly upheld that many women were forced to have late-term abortions if they were found to be “illegally” pregnant. Chinese authorities boasted that they prevented approximately 400 million births.
Even as the one-child policy was lifted in 2016, however, many couples in China are now choosing not to have children or continue having only one child as the cost of living in urban cities has risen exponentially.
Many netizens also drew comparisons between Ms. Yang’s situation and a 2007 Chinese film named Blind Mountain, which tells the story of a young woman living in a rural area who is kidnapped and sold into slavery.
Since the video was posted, it has prompted heated discussions about human trafficking in China’s impoverished rural areas — despite the few details available on this particular case.
A YouTuber who runs the channel “Caijing Lengyan” (财经冷眼) posted on Twitter cited statistics by a mainland Chinese netizen saying that about 48,000 women and girls are known to have been abducted in the city of Xuzhou since 1986.