Police detain two women in China's Jiangsu for trying to help chained woman

Commentators say public doubt continues over the conclusions of the official investigation into the case.
By Qiao Long and Chingman
Police detain two women in China's Jiangsu for trying to help chained woman A woman identified as Yang ***xia is shown sitting with a chain around her neck in a dilapidated hut at a rural property near Xuzhou city in the eastern province of Jiangsu , in a screenshot of a video that went viral on social media.
Video via Douyin

Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu have detained two women who traveled to the home village of a woman found chained in an outbuilding, sparking a wave of public outrage online over rampant human trafficking.

Two women who traveled to Jiangsu's Feng county in a bid to help Yang ***xia after a video of her living conditions went viral are being held under criminal detention by police, according to an audio recording posted to social media platforms late on Sunday.

"She is suspected of committing a crime," a police officer at Sunlou police station is heard telling a person who inquires after one of the women. "They will definitely be issuing a notice of criminal detention."

The post containing the audio clip had been viewed more than six million times on one social media platform by noon on Monday, local time.

Current affairs commentator Cai Shenkun said the local authorities appear to be trying to limit the damage done by the revelations about Yang, who was allowed to marry and have eight children -- in contravention of Chinese law and family planning regulations at the time -- despite having received a diagnosis of schizophrenia in the days after the video of her chained to a wall went viral.

Cai said a former People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldier from Nanchong in the southwestern province of Sichuan has disputed the official claim that Yang is a suspected missing person from Yunnan province, claiming that she is his missing daughter Li Ying, while her uncle has demanded a DNA test to confirm her identity.

"The main question is whether Yang is Xiao Huamei or Li Ying, a girl who went missing in Sichuan," Cai said. "Local officials are likely looking to make life easier for themselves."

Amateur analysis done by social media users found strong similarities between photos of Li and photos of Yang.

Cai said the authorities likely don't want to test to see if Yang really is Li Ying for fear of sparking the ire of military veterans, who have besieged government buildings in recent years over unpaid benefits, pensions and medical bills since their demobilization, leaving many in economic hardship.

"The government is trying to improve the status of demobilized soldiers, and Li Ying's father served in Tibet for 12 years, so her disappearance could easily make veterans angry," he said.

Famed writer censored

Ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) censors are also deleting content about Yang and other Feng county trafficking cases, including the account of U.S.-based author and screenwriter Geling Yan after she wrote hit out at the treatment of Chinese women, spurred by anger at Yang's treatment, and after she agreed with a retired scholar who called CCP leader Xi Jinping a trafficker on his YouTube channel.

Yan's husband Lawrence Walker confirmed she had said the words "Xi Jinping is a trafficker," but said she didn't know her conversation with retired Renmin University professor Zhou Xiaozheng was being recorded, nor that her comments would be broadcast on YouTube.

"She said what she said and thinks what she thinks, but she would have preferred to choose the time, place and method to express herself, rather than being put into this position," Walker wrote.

In an essay on the topic, Yan described herself as "angry, sad and restless" after hearing about Yang's treatment. "I realized that maybe it's time to set aside time for anger, just to let it happen."

"Anger makes poets, and anger fuels a lot of my fiction, so anger qualifies as my theme these days," she wrote. "I called the past five days my festival of rage."

In the essay, Yan also takes aim at Yang's eldest son, who is reportedly suing the person who made the initial video of his mother.

"How can people's concept of family relations and morality be so upside and confused to such an absurd degree?" Yan wrote. "She is your biological mother, child!"

"Our civilization has evolved to the point where we don't even tie a dog up with an iron chain," she wrote. "Not only did this eldest child ... not rescue his mother, but he sued the person calling for her to be rescued."

"Your mother is basically a slave, a sex slave ... you were grown in her reluctant womb, came into the world through her torn birth canal, and you owe your existence to her torture ... and you still try to ... prevent her from breaking free from this prison," the essay said, addressing all eight of Yang's children.

Keyword searches for Yan's name returned no results on social media platforms on Monday.

A social media user surnamed Wang, said Feng county has long been notorious as a center for trafficking in women and girls, and a video she tried to repost on the topic was recently blocked.

"The moment I had posted that video they blocked it, so I couldn't pass on content related to the chained woman," Wang said.

Scholar Wang Zheng said a number of accounts of WeChat have also been shut down for posting about Yang or Feng county.

"They are now deleting some of the information [about the story] and also shutting down some WeChat accounts," Wang Zheng said. "This has become routine now for the authorities."

"Posts about the two women who went to help the chained woman [and were detained] are also disappearing," he said. "They don't want people to help each other."

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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