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Xuzhou’s “shackled mother of eight” reflects the large-scale systematic trafficking and enslavement of women under the CCP rule

On 28th January 2022, citizen journalists published a scene captured in a pigsty in Dongji Village, Huankou Town, Feng County, Xuzhou City, Jiangsu Province, via self-published media. The video shows a middle-aged woman dressed in thin clothes with a long chain around her neck and few teeth left. The reporters tried to talk but could not understand the language of the shackled woman. When the video came out, the phenomenon of human trafficking in China became a hot topic of discussion once again. Two joint investigation team run by the county and city party (Chinese Communist Party) committees and governments in Feng County and Xuzhou responded to citizen journalists' reports and netizens' questions four times from 28 January 28 to 10 February. However, the official 'facts' released on four occasions not only lacked independent verification, but were also inconsistent, and there are still many doubts about the origin of the woman in chains. The only thing that is certain is that large-scale systematic trafficking and enslavement of women still exists in P. R. China, and that the root cause of the proliferation of this phenomenon lies in the system.

The mystery of the " shackled Woman"

In the first and second statements, the officials completely denied the possibility that the woman has been trafficked and abused, claiming that she had "wandered and begged" on the border between Huankou town and Yutai county in Shandong province in June 1998 and was "taken in" by the father of Dong Zhimin, a villager from Dongji village, and named “Yang *xia” [the asterisk represents the middle character of her name, elided to protect her identity]". “Dong Zhimin and Yang *xia” received their marriage certificate from  in August 1998 when she "showed signs of intellectual disability". Yang had given birth to eight children (seven boys and one girl, the oldest being 23 years old and the youngest only two years old) over the past 20 years. The authority also declared that her mental problems had worsened, "beating the elderly and children in the family".

Beginning on February 7, the authorities deployed police to intercept citizen journalists to investigate and detain activists who attempted to visited the woman in chains, A third bulletin was issued on the same day by the Xuzhou authority, claiming to have confirmed that “Yang *xia” formerly known as "Xiaohuamei," was a native of Yagu Village in Fugong County, Yunnan Province, and had been taken by fellow village member Sang to Jiangsu for medical treatment when she was "lost. It was not until the fourth notification was issued on February 10 that the authority acknowledged that the matter was suspected of trafficking, saying that "criminal compulsory measures" had been taken against Dong Zhimin and two suspected traffickers.

From 'legal marriage' and ' without illegal detention', denying trafficking, abduction in just 11 days, the authorities quickly locked up three bottom-level suspects on charges they once denied. Such an efficient approach to closing the case is exactly like the way the CCP has handled similar cases in the past. What does it say about the complete disappearance of trafficked, abducted, marriage-settled, and often beaten (including sexual violence) women from the view of the CCP and government organizations at all levels during the more than two decades of strict household registration, grassroots grid-based stability maintenance, and family planning control management systems? What problems does the official rhetoric attempt to conceal?

It is not an isolated phenomenon for male villagers in Dongji village to buy women from other places as "wives" and abuse these women and force them to give birth. From 1985 to 2000, from a few hundred to thousands of women were lured and trafficked to the Xuzhou area each year, and many of the women who were trafficked or subsequently subjected to violence by "marriage" developed mental problems. Trafficked women come mainly from Yunnan, Guangxi, Sichuan and Guizhou, and police handling of such cases is very rare compared to the actual cases that occur.

The authorities released information that comparing the woman's DNA with information from the Public Security Organs Information System for Locating Trafficked/Missing Children and the Public Security Organs DNA Database, "there was no match“. But there is no independent mechanism in the P R China to verify whether the information released by the public security authorities and the government is true. Moreover, the public security authorities have only been building a population and related database of trafficked/missing children since 2009, which is far from covering all trafficked women.

The policy has created a huge number of girls and women who are not registered or whose registration has been falsified under the household registration system (hukou zhi), and trafficking and exploitation of girls and women is part of the “enrichment (zhifu)” and “stability maintenance (weiwen)”

According to China's 2001 census, the number of girls aged 0-17 who were not registered in the household register from 1980 to 1999 was estimated at 15 million,  the vast majority of whom were rural girls.[1] Compulsory Family Planning Policy by the CCP, the patriarchal rule of party-state (dangguo), and the age-old practice of giving preference to sons over daughters, which is predominantly found in areas with a large Han Chinese population, are the reasons why such a large number of girls have 'disappeared' from the hukou registers. It is possible that "Yang *xia" is one of the 15 million girls who are not registered on the household register, and that "Xiao Huamei" is another female victim, forgery of the original household register to be registered by marriage.

Women whose household registrations are "missing" or whose original household registrations have been forged become "commodities" in the trafficking industry, and they are the main victims of trafficking. Missing women is also a special industry protected under the CCP system. Village and town party and government, public security, civil affairs departments, and women's federations, which are the CCP's rural grassroots organizations for maintaining stability, often ignore complaints of being lured and abducted women, but instead forge the identity certificates of these victimized women to make them "legitimate wives" of local male villages (many female victims are not of marriage age), and ignore the atrocities of local male villagers abusing these foreign "wives". Especially after these victimized women are forced to give birth, the CCP's grassroots organizations will only persuade them to maintain family stability. The only intervention of these institutions is the completion of the family planning indicators laid out above. Some of the women victimized were targeted by the heads of party organizations in villages and towns where they were settled (including higher-level CCP officials) shielded important traffickers and even directed them directly in the name of marriage introductions And the organization of trafficking, mingri "buying a daughter-in-law is a good way to solve the marriage problems of older unmarried young men in the local area, leading the villagers to get rich together, so that the local stability remains." In some villages and towns where women have been abducted, CCP organizations in these areas believe that women are more likely to "run away" and that "family planning work is easy to do."

Women trafficking networks are intertwined with the CCP's party and government and public security systems, and trafficking and buying and selling women has become a rapid way for these networks and institutions to quickly make profits. The central government's requirements for lower levels of government are to maintain political stability and economic growth, with no restrictions on how to get rich. The trafficking network has close ties with the CCP party and government and public security, and many people at the top of the network are themselves within the party-state system. When the CCP top level decided to "crack down on abduction", the main figures of the trafficking of women in the network grasped the news in advance, transferred, covered up the network nodes or temporarily closed the hands, and after the wind sounded, expanded the scope of business. Sometimes, some of the underclassmen who are scattered among the trafficking networks are sentenced as a result of the propaganda of "anti-abduction". "Trafficking" and the buying and selling of women are both top-down profitable industries for the CCP.

Officially known as "Xiaohuamei" comes from Fugong County, Yunnan Province, but official information does not mention that Fugong County is a county under the jurisdiction of Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture. Yunnan Province is one of the provinces with the highest trafficking of women among all provincial-level administrative regions, with the majority of non-Han women trafficked in autonomous prefectures and autonomous counties (mainly 12-29 years old). Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture is one of the poorest "three districts and three prefectures" under the CCP's rule, and the average income of local farmers accounts for only one-fourth, or even one-tenth, of the same class in the Han ethnic areas of the Central Plains and coastal areas. The "three districts and three prefectures" include the Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture, which is rich in resources and vast in region, and poverty is entirely caused by the CCP's plundering and development of discriminatory patterns. Improving life in the name of marriage and finding a job is a common deception used by traffickers to victims and their families. The large number of non-Han Chinese women trafficked in Yunnan illustrates that they are at the lowest level of class, gender, and ethnic oppression under the CCP system.

The CCP systematically exploits and enslaves trafficked women from legislation to law enforcement

The CCP's punishment for human trafficking is mainly based on the "crime of abducting and selling women and children" and "the crime of buying and selling women and children" in the Criminal Law, and the maximum sentence for "the crime of abducting and trafficking in women and children" is the death penalty, which cannot be said to be severe. However, the public security departments filed and handled cases on these two charges were one-tenth of the actual reported cases, and a large number of women whose whereabouts were unknown or whose circumstances were unknown but who were suspected of abduction were not included in the investigation and were not counted in the statistics of abduction and trafficking cases. Therefore, compared with the actual number of trafficked women, the public security departments deal with insignificant cases[2], and almost all of the cases filed and investigated are low-level people. It is even rarer to be punished for bribing trafficked women. The CCP's claims of "strike hard," "fight kidnapping," and "crack down on organized crime" are nothing more than regular propaganda performances.

In addition, if women are trafficked and later arrested for being forced into the sex industry, the public security departments often do not jointly investigate the crimes of trafficking and forced prostitution, often only imposing fines on places such as "entertainment" and women who are forced to get involved in the sex industry.

Although the Chinese Government has ratified the Protocol on preventing, suppressing and punishing trafficking in persons, especially women and children, the definition of "trafficking" in the Criminal Law is very different from the "trafficking" in this international convention. The trade and exploitation of women is the most important feature of modern slavery.

The Xuzhou authorities, other local authorities, and the public security system have been very "active" in trafficking and persecuting women, reflecting the underworld nature of the CCP system, which is fundamentally the same as the trafficking network for women. 

The main members of the Politburo Standing Committee of the 18th and 19th party Congresses have served as county party secretaries and provincial party secretaries in the seven most rampant provinces where trafficking and trafficking in women is rampant. The CCP uses the oppression of women as the primary means of maintaining an authoritarian and patriarchal system, which it claims as a "socialist system with characteristics”. In fact, the party-state is modern slavery, the large-scale systematic violence and control of women and the trafficking, enslavement and exploitation of women.



This article was translated into English from the Chinese original:

More: The mystery of the origins of Xuzhou's 'chained women' and the plight of minority women in Yunnan:

[1] Bulte, E., Hsieh, C., Tu, Q., & Wang, R. (2021). The Re-emergence of “Missing Women” in China. The China Quarterly, 248(1), 1200-1211. doi:10.1017/S0305741021000503

[2] No official figures have been released on the percentage of reported and filed cases of trafficking and abduction of women per year. Based on the 10% of reported cases and cases filed for trafficking and trafficking in women in Xuzhou City and Yunnan Province from 1986 to 2000, and referring to the official announcement that nearly 19,000 women and children were rescued in the 2010s, 65% of whom were women, the actual number of women hung and sold was 12,426. If we take the dark figure of crime (The Dark Figure of Crime) at 90%, the actual total number of women trafficked in 2010 was 124,260. Officials claim that the situation improved significantly in 2010, when hundreds of thousands of women could have been trafficked each year. According to the White Paper on China's Lost Population 2020, 710,000 female adults and minors (0-60) were lost, a total of 461,500 if 65% were female. 2016 saw approximately 1.84 million female adults and minors lost, and 2017 saw approximately 1.2 million female adults and minors lost. Although not all lost are trafficked, females in this age range are the most likely victims of trafficking.

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