A video of a Chinese mother of eight chained around the neck in a small village hut sparked online outrage and discussion on human trafficking and women’s rights in rural China.
The video footage went viral on Douyin after a vlogger visited Huankou village in Feng County in the eastern Jiangsu province and was shocked by the living conditions of the woman, identified as Yang, reported BBC.
In the video, the vlogger can be seen speaking to the woman’s child in a home before he walks over to a doorless shed outside, revealing the dazed woman dressed in a light sweater in the cold winter temperature with an iron chain around her neck.
The child reportedly told the vlogger that their mother is given food daily, according to What’s on Weibo. The man filming reportedly asked Yang questions before he placed a pink jacket on her. Yang did not appear to understand the man’s questions.
The video that was posted on Friday prompted public anger, demanding action from the authorities. The hashtag “Official Announcement Regarding the Circumstances of the Xuzhou Woman with Eight Kids” received over 190 million views and more than 56,000 comments, as of this writing. Many netizens reportedly spoke out against women’s abuse and trafficking as well as questioned local authorities. Some also compared Yang’s situation to a 2007 Chinese film “Blind Mountain,” which is about a woman who is kidnapped and sold into slavery, according to BBC.
Feng County authorities have since responded to the issue explaining that Yang had married her husband Mr. Dong in 1998 and developed violent behaviors due to her diagnosed mental illness. Her illness reportedly led to the decision to separate her from her family, leaving her chained in the shed. The officials informed the public that the Women’s Federation will provide assistance to the family “to ensure they will have a warm Spring Festival.”
Authorities, however, have failed to address Yang’s detainment, which had led to more public outrage from netizens. Many have reportedly questioned the use of chains and the fact that a mentally ill woman has eight children. According to BBC, the online discussion was heavily censored as authorities censored the topic phrase “Xuzhou Eight Children” and removed posts discussing human trafficking.
“Do you even treat this woman as a human being?” one comment read, as translated by What’s on Weibo.
Manya Koetse, the editor-in-chief of What’s on Weibo, also shared a clip of Yang’s husband and her children on Twitter with the caption: “Meanwhile, the husband is proudly talking about their 8 kids (7 boys, 1 girl), youngest still a baby. This is what the online anger is also about: how could she even have babies while suffering from mental illness? When did she become this way? Was she used as a breeding machine?”
According to BBC, Yang was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia and has been admitted to a hospital for treatment. Her children were taken into state care. The officials are currently investigating the law violations of Mr. Dong.
Public outrage from netizens continues online with many calling on local authorities to take on greater responsibility.
“She is a person, not an object,” a netizen wrote, according to BBC. “After having eight children over 20 years, she is only to be found today? None of the government departments and judicial bodies involved are innocent.”