Disturbing footage showing a Chinese mother of eight chained by the neck to an outdoor shed has sent shockwaves through the country — and sparked backlash about its treatment of rural women.
The video, which was posted by a blogger on the Chinese version of TikTok called Douyin in late January, showed the woman wearing a metal collar outside of a filthy home in China’s rural Jiangsu province, according to the blog Whats On Weibo.
The mother, who is named Xiao Huamei, was seen wearing only wearing a sweater despite being filmed in the middle of winter in chilly Fengxian county.
At one point in the video, the blogger gives her a coat. The metal collar around her neck is visible throughout the short video, and the mom is missing teeth.
Xiao is seen struggling to communicate, leading social media users to question her mental capabilities and wonder if she was forced to have her eight children, including one who was just recently born.
The footage also featured some of her children who explained that they bring their mother food every day while she remains chained up, according to the blog.
Social media users expressed ire and concern over the video, some wondering if Xiao was abused, why she had recently had a child if she might be mentally ill.
One woman wrote in an online post that she tried to visit the mother and was told Xiao was now hospitalized, Washington Post reported.
“The video really was too frightening. Everyone is paying attention because we can imagine ourselves in this situation, and then it’s quite scary,” Liu Ruishuang, deputy director of the department of medical ethics and health law at Peking University told the newspaper. “Is it the case that every day we have to be afraid that we too may be trafficked?”
More backlash ensued over the response given by authorities, who originally misspelled the woman’s name when insisting that “there was no abduction and trafficking” and that she suffers from schizophrenia.
Local officials then gave two more statements: one insisting that Xiao was only restrained by family when unstable and then another claiming she had been sent by her family to the rural area to find a husband but then went missing.
One post on WeChat that went viral and has since disappeared compared Xiao to Olympic star Eileen Gu.
“The systemic and structural shackles that Chinese women face have not changed. The vast majority of women have no chance of becoming Eileen Gu, but the tragedy of the woman in Fengxian can happen to anyone,” the post read.