The video seems to be popping up all over China’s internet: A middle-aged woman stands in a doorless brick shack with a blank expression on her face, not wearing a coat even though it’s the middle of winter. Around her neck was a metal chain, shackling her to the wall.
The short clip posted by a blogger on Douyin, China’s version of TikTok, raised many questions and social media users demanded answers. Who is she? Why is she locked up? And under what circumstances did she give birth to eight children living next door who said she was their mother?
As anger grew, officials in Jiangsu province, where the video was filmed last week, issued a brief statement. The woman, surnamed Yang, married her husband in 1998 and is not a victim of human trafficking. She was diagnosed with a mental illness, but “she is now receiving treatment and her family has received extra support to ensure they have a warmer Lunar New Year”.
Many commenters only got more angry. A member of the Chinese legislature, and a famous screenwriter, speak she reported the incident to “relevant leaders.” Hu Xijin, former editor of Global Times, a state-controlled tabloid, said anyone with common sense could tell that the woman had been treated inhumanly. But officials seem to have accepted the husband’s story blindly, he added.
“Forcing how many children with a mentally ill person, and turning her into an instrument of reproduction – isn’t this against the law?” Mr. Hu Written on the social networking platform Weibo.
The video and the officials’ reactions have brought new attention to some long-standing problems in China. Chinese society traditionally considers mental disorders to be extremely shameful, and people with such illnesses are hidden at home or confined in institutions. Today, though That opinion is changingresources are still limited mainly in cities. In rural areas, like where the video was made, the old view is still prevalent.
Decades of the Communist Party’s one-child policy has also led to a shortage of women, as many families have abandoned infant daughters or aborted female children in the hope of having a boy next time. As a result, a bride trade appeared. The bulletins also highlight cases of women with mental illness or intellectual disabilities marrying when it is unclear whether they actually consented.
More broadly, legal protections against sexual and family abuse remain weak or poorly enforced. Spousal rape is not a crime in China.
And the incident underscored, once again, how vigilant the authorities are to any public outcry. Even as pro-government vocalists like Mr. Hu criticized the response of local officials, Douyin closed the account of the blogger who originally posted the video of Ms. Yang on its platform. (The video was soon reposted by social media users on other platforms.) Weibo also censors some related hashtags.
“Although officials will respond to turbulent public opinion, they always want to keep the response and resolution under control,” said the statement. Fang Kecheng, a journalism professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who studies media and politics. “They don’t want people talking or organizing too much.”
In a while next statement on Sunday, officials said they were investigating Ms. Yang’s husband for locking her up. They did not address concerns about whether she would be forced to have children, although they said her husband had “used various means to evade the management of the family planning department.” family”. (Until last yearChina restricts most couples from having two children.)
The new statement asserts that Ms. Yang was not trafficked and says her mental illness has caused her to be violent towards her children.
How Ms. Yang and her family came to the public announcement is unclear. Ms. Yang’s husband, who has been identified by authorities as Dong, made headlines online last year, when local bloggers discovered that he had eight children, seven of whom were boys. Since having many sons is traditionally considered lucky, people sought out Mr. Dong for an interview. And Mr. Dong himself also started posting videos on Douyin showing off his son.
Videos with captions like “The kids and me” or “The happy childhood of eight kids.”
None of the 13 videos on his site show Ms. Yang.
Douyin Profile of Mr.
The blogger posted a viral video of Ms. Yang visiting her family’s home in Feng county, near Xuzhou city, last Wednesday. His profile, like Dong’s still visible but deactivated, doesn’t have his name. A short description says he lives in Xuzhou and posts videos of “special households”. Other videos on his profile show him interviewing people with disabilities and disadvantaged people.
In Ms. Yang’s video, one of the young boys tells the blogger that he brings food to his mother every day.
Then the video cuts about the shack. Ms. Yang was standing next to a table, on which there was a bowl of food that seemed to have frozen. The blogger asked Yang if she was cold, and if she could understand him. She shook her head several times.
“In this weather, what has this older sister been through?” blogger asked. “Where has our love gone?”
After the county officials issued first statement on Friday, immediate public skepticism. Under a hashtag on Weibo about the response, which has been viewed more than 190 million times, commenters asked why officials seem to assume her mental illness explains that she is locked up, but doesn’t seem to consider if the situation raises questions about whether she has. agreed to have eight children.
On Sunday, officials released another statement. They say that in 1998, Ms. Yang was taken home by the man’s father who is now her husband, after the father found her begging on the street.
“Over time, it was found that Yang showed signs of mental disability but was still able to take care of himself,” the statement read. When Ms. Duong and Mr. Dong went to register their marriage, the incident continued, local officials “did not closely verify their identity information”.
Mr. Dong began confining Ms. Yang in mid-2021, when her condition began to deteriorate, the statement said.
Officials said they have not found Ms. Yang’s name in any national database of missing people. In addition to investigating Mr. Dong, they said they had diagnosed Ms. Yang with schizophrenia and that she was in the hospital for treatment.
In recent years, many other well-known cases have raised questions about protecting people with mental illness or disabilities, especially women, from marriage and childbirth. Last March, another viral video showed what appeared to be a wedding ceremony in Henan province between a 55-year-old man and a 20-year-old woman with an intellectual disability, who was crying on camera. . Local officials then told reporters Husband and wife cannot marry because of their female status, but can live together.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/31/world/asia/china-chained-woman-video.html Video of mentally ill woman chained in anger shack in China