‘Chained woman’ fuels social media movement in China

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‘Chained woman’ fuels social media movement in China

The Chinese government is faced with a dilemma: how to convince its people that what it said about a chained woman is true.

since a short video The woman in a doorless shack went viral in late January, with the Chinese public taking matters into her own hands to find out if she was a victim of human trafficking and eight children of an apparently mentally ill woman Why were

The public thought it could not trust a government that was not true to its identity and when it came to forced marriages involving human trafficking.

On Chinese social media, users dug up a marriage certificate with a picture of a woman who was identified by the government as a chained woman, but she looked different from him. They dived into court documents that showed the area she lived in had a dark history of human trafficking. Long-retired investigative journalists traveled to a village deep in the mountains, knocking on every door, to confirm the government’s claim that she had grown up there.

“No social event has ever had the same impact on netizens as a woman in a chainsaw,” a user named “judikiuziyunku” wrote on social media platform WeChat. “It forced us to become spies, analysts, AI image in-painting technicians, data mining engineers, and Sherlock Holmes.”

The Chinese public staged a rare online revolt as it felt the government had failed to prioritize women’s personal safety, despite its claims that women “own half of the sky.”

This is one of the biggest credibility challenges Beijing has faced in recent years. The chained woman became a symbol of injustice that brought together liberals as well as nationalist digital warriors and non-political moderates. Many of them are concerned that the chain around their neck, literally and figuratively, might fall on them or on their loved ones.

The video of the chained woman has sparked a #MeToo movement of sorts on the Chinese Internet, with many coming forward to share the stories of mothers, daughters, sisters and classmates who were kidnapped or simply missing. they were finished.

“We are not the ones to understand, but the survivors,” quips one popular social media. “We are not saving the chained woman. Instead, she’s saving us.”

The top three hashtags about a woman in chains on Twitter-like social media platform Weibo competing for the Beijing Winter Olympics have garnered more than 10 billion views, which were heavily promoted by Weibo and official media outlets. And the topic is gaining attention online amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Even some of Beijing’s most devoted supporters expressed sympathy for the woman. They are also concerned that a poorly managed crisis could challenge the authority of the government. “It is sad politically,” Hu Zijin, retired editor of the official Global Times, wrote in February. “This is a clear warning that the credibility of the government has been greatly weakened.”

What looks like outperforming in 2020 over the death of a Chinese doctor who was reprimanded by police for sharing his knowledge of the coronavirus outbreak. In this highly censored society, it is rare for ordinary Chinese to express critical views of the government. Many people are ready to speak up because they feel insecure – and are guilty of not being aware of problems in advance.

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“If justice cannot be done in this case, this place will fall into a very long and very dark night,” Zhao Jianfeng, an Internet entrepreneur in Hangzhou, wrote on his WeChat timeline.

A science writer with the Weibo handle @Luka wrote, “I felt that if this matter was not resolved, happiness would be superficial and many things would be meaningless.”

Hundreds of graduates from some of China’s most prominent universities signed petitions urging the central government to investigate the matter.

Many bookstores have set up sections for books that can help readers understand the matter, including “Macho Supremacy” by Pierre Bourdieu, “Men Explain Things to Me” by Rebecca Solnit and “Jane do Jan: My Twenty-Year Search for Truth and Justice”. by Emily Winslow.

Lawyers, academics, former journalists and many bloggers helped give the Chinese public a crash course on human trafficking, forced marriage, and demographic statistics. He reinvented books, films, documentaries and news reports about abducted women.

The public learned that China’s legal system was set up to protect the men who paid for the abducted women. Buying one woman could get someone up to three years in prison, a leading legal scholar said in a viral video, similar to the punishment for buying 20 frogs. When victims of human trafficking filed for divorce, courts often ruled against them, saying that living with men sufficed as evidence of a good marriage.

He learned how easily women, even educated women, could become victims of human trafficking.

Some unsolved stories, based on official media reports and court documents, hit home for the Chinese middle class: a Shanghai graduate student kidnapped on a field trip and sold to a humpbacked man. She was rescued after 71 days. In Beijing, a 13-year-old girl was kidnapped on her way to school and sold to a man who repeatedly beat her up. She had a son at the age of 15 and could not survive until she was 19. A young girl from Hangzhou was kidnapped on a business trip and spent the next two decades in a remote village. He was rescued after his son went to college and informed his parents.

But the vast majority of victims of human trafficking come from China’s poorest areas. Some were saved. It was almost impossible for the women to escape as they were watched by the whole village. When caught, they were beaten up and locked up.

Court documents show that selling and reselling to mentally ill women was common in parts of China.

A 2020 ruling revealed that a woman with schizophrenia in Hubei province was sold three times in less than two years. A 2017 ruling revealed that a woman with mental illness was sold to a man in Shandong province and beaten to death by her and her mother.

The more people learned about victims of human trafficking, the more furious they felt about the government’s conflicting statements about the chained woman. They wanted to know who she was, how the government would prosecute those responsible for her pathetic conditions and what it would do to help many other women like her.

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The chained woman, who is 44, has led a tragic life, the fifth since late January, according to a statement issued by the Jiangsu provincial government on February 23.

Nicknamed Xiaohuamei (small flowering plum), she grew up in a remote village in Yunnan, a southwestern province. She showed signs of mental illness after her divorce at the age of 20. In 1998, a couple smuggled her to eastern Jiangsu province. She was sold twice within a year, the second time to the family of a man named Dong Zhimin.

She and Mr Dong had a son in 1999, the statement said. Then between 2011 and 2020, she gave birth to seven more children. After the birth of the third child, her mental illness worsened. Since 2017, Mr Dong has tied him up with ropes or chains his neck when he is ill.

The statement said Xiaohumei was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was hospitalized.

Mr. Dong has been charged with abusing a family member. The couple who smuggled her were charged with human trafficking, and 17 low-level local officials were disciplined.

But many people are skeptical or have objection to this statement. It was difficult to trust, he said, because there was only one source of information — the government — and journalists from relatively independent outlets were barred from investigating.

They were disappointed that Mr. Dong was only accused of misdemeanor rather than rape and false imprisonment, and the woman was denied the opportunity to speak for herself. He took issue with many of the facts presented by the government, and many still want to know how and when the woman got married and specifically whether she is the woman in the marriage certificate.

The government said that Xiaohumei did not resemble the woman in the marriage certificate as she was now grown and had lost most of her teeth. But some social media users got suspicious. The change seemed too drastic.

The public is most disappointed by the government’s lack of serious planning to end human trafficking and forced marriage. Instead, it is more interested in taking back control of the narrative.

Two women who tried to meet a chained woman were detained and beaten up by local police officers in February. His posts and social media accounts were deleted. Some social media users who shared their post said that they had received calls from the police.

Bookstores were told to remove their special sections. Professors were warned not to discuss Xiaohumei’s case with their students.

Many people said online, the government didn’t care whether it was coming true or not. Government officials were promoting the version of truth they wanted the public to believe.

Some social media users shared a short video of compiled footage of Hollywood movies with different characters, saying, “I don’t buy it.”

liu yi Contributed to research.

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