For weeks, China has been reeling following the discovery of a trafficked woman who was kept chained in a hut by a man in the eastern Jiangsu province. Now, the authorities have announced they are investigating reports of another similar case in northwest China’s Shaanxi province.
Police in the city of Yulin announced Tuesday they had launched a probe into a “caged woman” case. The news came just hours after a viral article on the Chinese social app WeChat alleged that a man in the city was keeping a woman locked inside a cage.
According to the article, the man in question is surnamed Li and is a resident of Jia County, a rural area administered by Yulin City. The author, who writes under the pen name “Dark Horse Poetry,” claimed he was basing his allegations on tips from several contacts on social media.
Li allegedly said during a livestream on the short video platform Kuaishou that he started to live with his wife — whom he called Xiaoyu — in 2009, and that he didn’t know her real name or where she was from. He claimed he registered Xiaoyu as his wife in 2019, according to the article. Li also told followers that he would “punish” Xiaoyu when she tried to escape, the article added.
The article says that Li told his followers on Kuaishou that he had built high walls with barbed wire around his home to prevent his wife from escaping. He said he had stockpiled dynamite at his house to scare off people wishing to rescue the woman, according to the article.
Li at one point had over 100,000 followers on Kuaishou, according to the article. The account is no longer accessible.
Dark Horse Poetry posted another article on Wednesday, which said the communications department of Jia County contacted him shortly after his first article was published and told him they had set up an investigation into the case.
Yulin police confirmed they had arrested Li for interrogation, domestic media reported Wednesday. Sixth Tone’s repeated attempts to reach the police in Yulin were unsuccessful.
The story has attracted enormous attention on Chinese social media, with a related hashtag becoming one of the top trending topics on the Twitter-like social platform Weibo on Wednesday.
Many netizens praised Yulin’s rapid response to the “caged woman” reports, and commented on the contrast with the reaction of local authorities in Jiangsu province to the previous “chained woman” case.
Reports that a woman was being kept chained inside a hut in Feng County, Jiangsu province, first emerged in late January. However, local officials initially denied the woman had been a victim of human trafficking and said she was being kept in a hut because of her violent behavior.
The denials, however, sparked a public backlash, and on Feb. 17 provincial authorities launched a further investigation. This report concluded the woman had indeed been trafficked multiple times. She was sold to a family in Jiangsu province in 1998, and had since had eight children.
Also on Wednesday, China’s Ministry of Public Security announced a 10-month-long national campaign to root out cases of human trafficking involving women and children.
The ministry ordered local police to review all previous tips regarding potential human trafficking cases, especially those related to “homeless people and beggars with unknown origins, women and children with intellectual disabilities, mental disorders, and hearing and sight-related disabilities.”
The statement also said police should collect DNA samples from all suspected victims of abduction and those who are looking for missing relatives.
“The breeding ground for the crime of abduction and trafficking has not been completely eradicated, and there is still a backlog of cases that have not been solved,” the statement said. “The working mechanism for preventing, detecting, attacking, rescuing, and resettling is not yet perfect, and there is still a long way to go.”
Editor: Dominic Morgan.
(Header image: Left: The man, surnamed Li, appears in a video posted to his feed on video platform Kuaishou; right: A screen grab from the same Kuaishou feed shows the man’s wife. From The Paper)