A Chinese court has jailed six men in connection to the high-profile human trafficking case of a woman that was found chained inside a hut in the eastern Jiangsu Province in China.
On Thursday, the woman’s husband, Dong Zhimin, was sentenced to nine years in prison for abusing and unlawfully detaining his wife, Xiao Huamei.
Five others also received sentences ranging from eight to 13 years and were each fined for trafficking Xiao decades ago.
The court found Dong guilty of torturing Xiao and forcing her to have eight children between 1999 and 2020.
According to the Intermediate People’s Court of Xuzhou city, Dong became very abusive when Xiao, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, worsened after her third child.
Dong placed her in an outdoor hut in 2017, where she was tied with ropes and chains without any electricity or water.
Yao Hui, the presiding judge, said Dong had not sought medical attention for Xiao and had repeatedly gotten her pregnant despite her mental disorder.
The verdict was met with heavy criticism and anger on Chinese social media, with many people saying that the sentences were too light and reforms were still lacking.
“It’s her whole life, but just nine years for him,” a Weibo user wrote.
“Amend the law, the sentence is too light,” another user said.
Activists have been pushing for stricter legal reform, noting that light sentences do not discourage traffickers and buyers.
The human trafficking case came to light in January 2022 when a video of the victim went viral on Douyin after a vlogger visited Huankou village in Feng County.
The vlogger found Xiao chained around the neck in a doorless shed in an apparent daze while dressed in a light sweater in the cold winter weather.
Dong’s defense was that he locked up his wife because she was schizophrenic and prone to violent behavior.
Following the incident, online public outrage prompted Chinese authorities to investigate.
In February 2022, local authorities confirmed Xiao had been trafficked multiple times.
Xiao, who was born in 1977, was married in 1995 and later divorced in 1997 before a woman brought her to Jiangsu Province to supposedly help her seek medical treatment and find her a new husband. However, the woman sold her to a farmer in Donghai County for 5,000 yuan (approximately $728) in 1998.
A year later, Xiao was sold again to a couple, who then arranged her sale to Dong’s father.
Following investigations last year, Xiao was admitted to a hospital for treatment, where she currently remains, and her children were taken into state care.