Chinese commentators slam official findings in Jiangsu chained woman case

A veteran journalist says the report likely comes from central government, but has 'zero credibility.'
By Yitong Wu, Chingman, Qiao Long and Jojo Man
2022.02.24
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Chinese commentators slam official findings in Jiangsu chained woman case A woman identified as Yang Qingxia 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

Chinese commentators have taken aim at an official investigation into a woman found chained up in the eastern province of Jiangsu, calling for a wider inquiry into rampant human trafficking and official collusion with criminal gangs who buy and sell women for "marriage."

An investigation by Jiangsu provincial authorities said the woman, named as Yang Qingxia on her marriage certificate, was a missing woman known by the nickname Xiaohuamei who was trafficked out of the southwestern province of Yunnan in 1997 and sold twice by human traffickers in Feng county.

Investigators said nine people have been arrested and would face criminal investigation, including Yang's "husband," surnamed Dong and others involved in her trafficking.

Meanwhile, Feng county ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) secretary Lou Hai and governor Zheng Chunwei have been fired for failing to "uphold people's rights and interests."

"On Feb. 22, the Feng county people's procuratorate approved the arrest of the criminal suspect Dong ***min on suspicion of abuse," state news agency Xinhua reported.

"Xiaohuamei was bought by Dong ***geng (Dong ***min's father) in June 1998 ... the relevant criminal facts are still under investigation," it said, adding that Yang has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and is being treated in hospital.

It said DNA testing had revealed that Yang wasn't missing woman Li Ying from Sichuan province, as many citizen investigators have claimed, citing the striking similarity of facial features when comparing a known photo of Li with a recent photo of Yang.

Fifteen other Feng county officials have also been punished in connection with the case.

''Conflicting statements'

Official media said the county government had issued "conflicting statements" that had fueled widespread public anger about the case.

Veteran Beijing journalist Gao Yu said the latest announcement on the Feng county case bore the hallmarks of central government messaging.

"This fifth announcement is actually coming from the central government, and I don't think there'll be another," Gao told RFA. "The final decision has been made."

But she said there are many unanswered questions.

"This fifth announcement is also unconvincing, and its credibility is still zero," she said. "A centralized regime can ignore tens of billions of concerns, and it has maintained its own stability for decades by doing so."

Beijing-based artist and activist Ji Feng said the statement also glosses over the much deeper problem of rampant trafficking in women and girls, aided and abetted by Chinese officials.

"They are making sure the buck stops in Feng county," Ji said. "They are totally avoiding the issue of rape and human trafficking, the essential things, and the punishments are only for negligence."

"The aim is to exonerate the CCP and its officials at ever level ... they are all accomplices in this crime," he said.

Waking people up

He said public anger over the incident is unlikely to be soon forgotten.

"This whole story has already annoyed the vast majority of people and woken up a lot of people," Ji said. "Very few people will now believe that the official story is the correct one."

"The chained woman could have been our mother, our sister, our daughter, and the rapists aren't only Dong but also the officials and others [who enabled it]," Ji said.

"They should abolish the word abduction or trafficking, because what it really means is kidnapping, detention and violent rape," he said.

Current affairs commentator Guan Shan said many had noticed that Yang's age had been changed to 44, to fit the Xiaohuamei narrative, after online investigations pointed out a discrepancy between the age of the missing Yunnan woman and Yang, as given on her "marriage certificate."

The new narrative also makes a nonsense of the name of one of Dong's children, who was earlier said to be named Dong Xianggang because they were born in 1997, the year of the handover of Hong Kong.

Under the new official version of events, Dong Xianggang's year of birth is reported as 1999.

Deeply entrenched abusive practices

A resident of nearby Xuzhou who gave only the surname Li said the sale of women and girls was deeply entrenched in the region.

"It's awful, the way they abduct women and children, and use them as tools to serve these chains of vested interests [including officials]," Li said. "The roots of this go very deep; they are all members of the same criminal gang."

Beijing lawyer Mo Shaoping agreed.

"The case of the chained woman in Feng County is just the tip of the iceberg," Mo said. "There have been many other reports of abduction and trafficking of women in other provinces and cities in mainland China."

"This is an extremely cruel crime ... We should change the law and crack down harder. Police should also hold accountable all of the public officials who participated in it."

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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