China's investigation confirms chained woman was trafficked

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Chinese authorities have detained six people and fired eight lower-level Communist Party officials in a provincial-level investigation of the case of a trafficked woman that caused national outrage and frustration.

Just days before the recent Lunar New Year holiday, a video circulated of a woman chained to a small shed. The video, filmed by a blogger who was trying to solicit donations for poor rural families, immediately drew questions and concerns as the blogger said the woman was the mother of eight children. After local officials responded with a series of inconsistent statements, the Chinese public only grew angrier, demanding accountability.

Authorities on Wednesday confirmed that the woman came from a village in Yunnan province, not neighboring Sichuan province as some members of the public believed, and that she had been trafficked multiple times.

The woman was born in 1977 and first married in 1995. She divorced in 1997 and returned to Yagu village in Yunnan. A year later, a woman surnamed Sang brought her from Yagu all the way to coastal Jiangsu province, about 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) away, under the guise of getting medical treatment and finding a husband. But Sang then sold her to a man in Donghai county for 5,000 yuan ($790), Jiangsu authorities said.

They said Sang and her husband had both been sentenced to jail in 2000 for trafficking girls — one for five years and the other for seven.

Both were arrested on Tuesday.

After just a few months with the man in Donghai county, the woman who was trafficked disappeared one morning. She ended up in Feng county, where the video showing her chained up was shot, as the result of further trafficking, according to the report.

A couple who ran a hotel in neighboring Henan province found the woman wandering as a beggar and took her in, according to the report. After a month, they sold her to a construction foreman who then sold her to a man in Feng county. This man then sold her to the family that she would “marry into” and end up having eight children in. Investigators said this chain of events was still under examination.

Authorities also addressed rumors about the marriage license, which was presented by a former investigative journalist on the social media platform Weibo.

Many in the public raised concerns over the age discrepancy in the marriage license, which indicated the woman was in her 50s, though her appearance suggested otherwise. Authorities clarified it was due to the fact that the husband registered her with a different birthday, though it is unclear why.

Her husband was detained by authorities earlier this month. On Thursday, prosecutors in Feng county approved his formal arrest on charges of abuse.

Police have also detained the first man that the woman was sold to in Jiangsu in 1998, as well as those who later trafficked her to Feng county, the report said.

Eight lower-level officials have been fired and three have been “deprived of freedom of movement” as part of an internal party investigation, for various reasons including issuing false information and failing to protect the public’s rights. Six others have received internal punishments, such as demotion in rank, the report said.