The Case of the Chained Woman

Man rescuing chained Chinese woman.

The Chinese government cannot convince its people that what it said about a chained woman is true.

A short video of the woman chained in a door-less shack went viral in late January. The Chinese public wants to find out who she is. Is she a victim of human trafficking? And why does the woman, who appears mentally ill, have eight children?

The Chinese public does not trust a government that was not truthful about her identity.

Something bigger than a local scandal is taking place. People from all walks of life are joining in a search for the truth.

Chinese social media users found a marriage certificate with a photo of a woman. The government said it was the chained woman. Observers said It did not look like her. The region where she lived has a dark history of human trafficking. Journalists traveled to a village deep in the mountains. They knocked on doors to verify the government’s claim that the woman grew up there.

“No social events have ever had the same effect like the one of the chained woman.” a user wrote this on the social media platform WeChat.

The Chinese public staged a rare online revolt. It felt that the government had failed to protect the personal safety of women.

The chained woman became a symbol of injustice.

The video of the chained woman has led to a kind of #MeToo movement on the Chinese internet. Many people stepped forward to share stories of the abduction of mothers, daughters, sisters, and classmates. Some women just disappeared.

Human trafficking is a hidden feature of life in poor and rural China. It goes back a long way. But the Chinese “one-child” policy made the practice more common. Female babies were of little value to families. Poor families were willing to sell their female babies.

The story of the chained woman is still a mystery. And the Chinese government is doing all it can to let the story die. But a video unearthed a reality that hit home across China.

Some of Beijing’s most devoted supporters expressed their sympathy toward the woman. They worry that the poorly-managed crisis could challenge the authority of the government. A supporter said, “It is a clear warning that the government’s credibility has been weakened.”

The public has learned that China’s legal system protects the men who paid for abducted women. When victims of human trafficking filed for divorce, the courts often ruled against them. The court said that having stayed with the men was evidence of a good marriage.

The vast majority of human trafficking victims came from the poorest corners in China. Few were rescued. It was nearly impossible for the women to escape. Whole villages kept an eye on them. They would be beaten and locked up after being caught.

Court documents showed that selling mentally ill women was common in some parts of China.

The government wants to end the matter. The public is only now beginning to see how widespread these abuses are.

Source: The New York Times March 1, 2022


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