Chinese TikTok video shows woman chained like a dog and people are angry

You’ve heard of Libs of Tik Tok. This video turned up on Chinese Tik Tok. It shows a middle-aged woman in a small village who has a chain around her neck that attaches her to a wall.

The TikTok video first shows the vlogger talking to children inside the home; the woman is claimed to be the mother of eight children in total. They tell the man that their mother is brought food every day. The vlogger then walks up to an old doorless shed next to the house, where he finds the woman with an iron chain around her neck, wearing no coat in the middle of winter.

The man offers to bring the woman some warm clothes. He also finds that the food on the table is cold, as it is zero degrees outside. The woman does not really seem to understand what the man is saying and she has a glazed look in her eyes.

Here’s the video:

China Digital Times reports that this was originally supposed to be an upbeat video about a father overcoming adversity and providing for his mentally ill wife and 8 children, but people who saw it didn’t see the upbeat angle and had a lot of questions about the chained woman.

…many viewers immediately dismissed the “positive energy” angle and flooded the comments section with questions about the woman’s inhumane treatment, accusations of human trafficking, theories about her history, and demands to notify the police.

Enough people did notify police that they eventually put out a brief statement:

Preliminary findings indicate that the woman reported by netizens is Yang *xia [asterisk indicates the use of a “filler character” to obscure the full name], who legally married Dong *min in Huankou Township, Feng County, in August of 1998. There is no evidence of trafficking. Relatives and neighbors report frequent unprovoked assaults by Yang against children and the elderly. A medical institution diagnosed Yang as suffering from mental illness, for which she is currently receiving treatment.

People didn’t buy that explanation. One person responded, “Hello, what’s going on with that metal chain? If she’s mentally ill, wouldn’t they call the police and get her transferred to a mental hospital? And what, just because they’re married, he’s allowed to keep her in chains?” So local authorities put out a second, longer explanation:

Yang *xia (whose name was provided to investigators by her husband Dong *min) was living as a vagrant beggar in the border region between Huankou Township, Jiangsu, and Yutai County, Shandong, when she was found and taken in by Dong *min’s father, Dong *geng (now deceased) in June of 1998, after which she lived with Dong *min. In the process of living together, Yang was discovered to be developmentally disabled, but she was still able to care for herself…

Since June of 2021, Yang’s condition has worsened. When her mental illness flares up, she often smashes things and beats her children and elderly family members. In order to prevent his wife from harming others when her illness manifests, Dong temporarily uses shackles and chains to restrain her from this behavior, but removes them after her mental state stabilizes. Dong’s actions are suspected of being in violation of the law, and the police have launched an investigation into him.

Despite the official denials, many people seem to suspect this is a case of trafficking which is apparently more common in China than authorities want to admit. A woman who was sold by her uncle at the age of 12, wrote about her experience and connected it to the woman in chains.

In 2000, when I was 12 years old, my uncle sold me to an older male student named Chen. When my uncle sold me, all the village cadres participated: they even personally wrote and signed the contract between the uncle who trafficked me and the man who bought me.

In 2001, when I was 13 years old, Chen took me to work in Fujian. During this period, I was raped. I reported it to the police and went to the police station to make a statement. My uncle bribed the chief of the police station with some eggs, roosters, bacon and pigs feet … after that, the matter was covered up and the chief refused to allow the police to investigate further…

So when I say that the village committee, town government, and local police station must know about [Yang’s situation], it’s because I’ve experienced it personally! They don’t care at all, because they don’t want to care!

There are communist party cadres in every town who are there to monitor what is going on. But if they’ve been bribed to turn a blind eye, they’ll do that. So there’s really no telling what the true story is about this woman. The local officials can’t admit now that they overlooked a crime for the past 25 years so they’re heavily incentivized deny it. In fact, there’s a report from Deutsche Welle that after the official statement came out saying there was no evidence of trafficking, social media users can no longer use the word in reference to this case. Anyone who does has to be prepared to “receive a call from the police, using information about their parents and employers to threaten them.”