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Woman found chained in Chinese village is victim of trafficking, authorities say

Three screen grabs from a video that recently went viral in China show a woman chained to a wall in a doorless shed in a rural Chinese village. The video has prompted a heated discussion about the trafficking of women.
Screen grabs by NPR/TikTok
Three screen grabs from a video that recently went viral in China show a woman chained to a wall in a doorless shed in a rural Chinese village. The video has prompted a heated discussion about the trafficking of women.

A woman found chained by her neck in a small Chinese village was trafficked, according to authorities, following weeks of public intrigue over her case.

Chinese authorities acknowledged this week that the woman, who they said is named Xiaohuamei, had been sold at least three times, the first time when she was 20 years old.

She was discovered after being filmed in a TikTok video. A man claiming to be her husband said she was mentally ill. They have eight children together - unusual in a country with strict birth control laws still limiting couples to three children.

When her case exploded on social media, local authorities at first denied she was trafficked. Public interest in her case is so high that authorities have fenced off her entire village to prevent journalists from entering.

This week, a provincial investigation team confirmed the woman, aged 44, to be from a remote mountainous village in the southwestern province of Yunnan.

They said she was sold to eastern Jiangsu province by a couple for 800 dollars in early 1998. She then went missing in May 1998 and was adopted by a couple and then sold to two brothers. They in turn sold her to another man in a neighboring village.

The couple who first sold her was arrested on suspicion of trafficking women this week.

Authorities also punished 17 local Communist Party members over the case.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Aowen Cao
Emily Feng
Emily Feng is NPR's Beijing correspondent.