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5-Year-Old Girl Goes Missing in Yunnan, Is Found 9 Hours Later with Shaved Head and Changed Clothes

The little girl was saved from a child trafficker after her parents’ cry for help went viral on WeChat.



The story of a young girl who went missing and was found hours later, her appearance changed and seemingly subdued, has, once again, turned public attention to the problem of child trafficking in China.

On Saturday, August 25, grandmother Wang took her 5-year-old granddaughter to a nearby playground at around two o’clock in the afternoon in Xuanwei, a county-level city in the northeast of Yunnan Province. Within just thirty minutes, the calm afternoon turned into a nightmare as the little girl went missing in the blink of an eye.

A close family member told Chinese media outlet Sina News that another woman, who also had a little girl with her, was also at present at the playground. Because the two little girls were playing together, the grandmother was less vigilant, knowing that the other woman was also there.

When the little girl was gone without a trace, the grandmother immediately notified police. The worried family also spread the message about their missing child via Wechat, which soon went viral on chat groups all across town and nearby cities.

Photo of the little girl, spread on social media.

With the help of police and watchful citizens, it later became clear that the little girl was spotted nearby the playground at 14:41, leaving the area in a white mini-van together with a middle-aged woman and another child. Just fifteen minutes later, they would depart Xuanwei by train, getting off at the Qujing station, some 60 miles away, at around 16:30.

After receiving various calls from people who had spotted the girl, local police were able to catch the woman and find the child at midnight, in a hotel nearby the Qujing station. When the police caught the woman, it turned out she had already purchased train tickets to leave to Chongqing, a city 500 miles northeast of Qujing.

Upon receiving the news that his daughter was spotted in Qujing, the child’s father rushed to the city and was reunited with his daughter at the hotel.

Father and daughter reunited.

The woman was arrested on the spot and taken away by police. The other young girl allegedly is the woman’s own granddaughter and was used as a ‘decoy’ to kidnap the 5-year-old.

The suspected abductor is taken away by police in the early morning of August 26.

Just within nine hours after her disappearance, the girl had undergone a big transformation; her clothes were changed, her hair had been shaven off, and she seemed unusually quiet. She will reportedly get a medical check-up to check for traces of drugs or medication.

The father turned to social media to thank everyone for their help in rescuing his daughter from the hand of a “child trafficker.”

The woman is held in custody while police further investigate this case. According to a close family member source, quoted by Sina News, the suspect’s family originally is from Xuanwei, but she moved to Chongqing with her husband after getting married.

Mother and daughter together at the police station.

Child trafficking is a serious problem in China, where many children are trafficked every year. As Simon Denyer described in Washington Post last year, there are no reliable figures for how many children exactly go missing in China annually, with academic estimates going from 20,000 up to 200,000. Official statistics, however, have previously stated (2011) there are fewer than 10,000 kids abducted every year; in 2016, according to China’s Children’s Development Report (中国儿童发展纲要), there were just 618 cases nationwide.

Studies suggest that children trafficking in China is mainly done for domestic illegal adoption, altough children also also kidnapped to be sold in to the criminal market (Shen 2016, 66-67).

In 2014, when there was also heightened media attention for the problem of child trafficking in China, one state media report (CCTV) suggested that the market price for a boy was about 100k RMB (±$14.685) and 40-50k RMB (±$7000) for a girl.

On social media, netizens now warn parents that even women with children might be dangerous, as this story shows, and to keep an eye on children at all times.

Also read: “China’s Stolen Children – Why Babies Are Booming Business”

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Shen, Anqi. 2016. “Female Perpetrators in Internal Child Trafficking in China: An Empirical Study.” Journal of Human Trafficking 2:1, 63-77, DOI: 10.1080/23322705.2016.1136537

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©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on Contact at, or follow on Twitter.

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China and Covid19

Fangcang Forever: China’s Temporary Covid19 Makeshift Hospitals To Become Permanent

China’s temporary ‘Fangcang’ shelter hospitals are here to stay.



A new term has been added to China’s pandemic lexicon today: Permanent Fangcang Hospital. Although China’s ‘Fangcang’ shelter hospitals are, by definition, temporary, these healthcare facilities to isolate and treat Covid patients are now becoming a permanent feature of China’s Zero-Covid approach.

Over the past few days, Chinese authorities have emphasized the need for China’s bigger cities to build or renovate existing makeshift Covid hospitals, and turn them into permanent sites.

So-called ‘Fangcang hospitals’ (方舱医院, square cabin hospitals) are large, temporary makeshift shelter hospitals to isolate and treat Covid-19 patients. Fangcang shelter hospitals were first established in China during the Wuhan outbreak as a countermeasure to stop the spread of the virus.

January 5 2022, a Fangcang or Isolation Point with over 1000 separate isolations rooms is constructed in Baqiao District of Xi’an (Image via Renmin Shijue).

They have since become an important part of China’s management of the pandemic and the country’s Zero-Covid policy as a place to isolate and treat people who have tested positive for Covid-19, both asymptomatic and mild-to-moderate symptomatic cases. In this way, the Fangcang hospitals alleviate the pressure on (designated) hospitals, so that they have more beds for patients with serious or severe symptoms.

On May 5th, Chinese state media reported about an important top leadership meeting regarding China’s Covid-19 situation. In this meeting, the Politburo Standing Committee stressed that China would “unswervingly adhere to the general Zero-Covid policy” and that victory over the virus would come with persistence. At the meeting, chaired by Xi Jinping, the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee also declared that China would fight against any words or acts that “distort, doubt, or deny” the country’s dynamic Zero-Covid policy.

Life inside one of Shanghai’s Fangcang, photo via

Following the meeting, there have been multiple official reports and statements that provide a peek into China’s ‘zero Covid’ future.

On May 13, China’s National Health Commission called on all provinces to build or renovate city-level Fangcang hospitals, and to make sure they are equipped with electricity, ventilation systems, medical appliances, toilets, and washing facilities (Weibo hashtag ##以地级市为单位建设或者改造方舱医院#).

On May 16, the term ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital’ (Weibo hashtag #永久性方舱医院) became a trending topic on Weibo after Ma Xiaowei (马晓伟), Minister of China’s National Health Commission, introduced the term in Qiushi (求是), the leading official theoretical journal of the Chinese Communist Party.

The term is new and is somewhat contradictory as a concept, since ‘Fangcang hospitals’ are actually defined by their temporary nature.

Ma Xiaowei stressed the need for Chinese bigger cities to be ready for the next stage of China’s Covid control. This also includes the need for some central ‘Fangcang’ makeshift hospitals to become permanent ones.

In order to ‘normalize’ the control and monitoring that comes with living in Zero-Covid society, Chinese provincial capitals and bigger cities (more than ten million inhabitants) should do more to improve Covid testing capacities and procedures. Ma proposes that there should be nucleic acid sample collection points across the city within a 15-minute walking distance radius, and testing frequency should be increased to maximize efficient control and prevention.

Cities should be prepared to take in patients for isolation and/or treatment at designated hospitals, centralized isolation sites, and the permanent Fangcang hospitals. The recent Covid outbreak in Shanghai showed that local authorities were unprepared to deal with the outbreak, and sites that were used as Fangcang hospitals often lacked proper facilities, leading to chaotic scenes.

A Fangcang Isolation Center in Quanzhou, March 2022, via People’s Daily.

The hashtag “Permanent Fangcang Hospitals” received over 140 million views on Weibo on Monday.

One of the Weibo threads by state media reporting on the Permanent Fangcang hospitals and the publication by Ma Xiaowei received nearly 2000 comments, yet the comment section only displayed three comments praising the newly announced measures, leaving out the other 1987 comments.

Elsewhere on Weibo, people shared their views on the Permanent Fangcang Hospitals, and most were not very positive – most commenters shared their worries about China’s Covid situation about the stringent measures being a never-ending story.

“We’re normalizing nucleic acid test, we’re introducing permanent fangcang hospitals, [but] why isn’t the third Covid vaccination coming through?” one person wondered.

“If there was still a little bit of passion inside me, it was just killed by reading these words ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital,'” another commenter writes, with one Weibo user adding: “I feel desperate hearing the words ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital.'”

“Building permanent Fangcang? Why? Why don’t you use the resources you’re now spending on normalizing testing to create more hospital beds, more medical staff and more medications?”

Another commenter wrote: “China itself is one giant permanent Fangcang hospital.”

“The forever Fangcang are being built,” one Weibo user from Guangdong writes: “This will never end. We’ll be locked up like birds in a cage for our entire life.”

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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Featured image via user tongtong [nickname]

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China and Covid19

‘Hard Isolation’ is Shanghai’s New Word of the Day

In line with a new ‘hard isolation’ measure, the entrances of some Shanghai residential buildings were fenced up.



While some Shanghai households have already endured weeks of isolation, a new word was added to their epidemic vocabulary today: ‘hard isolation’ or ‘strong quarantine’ (yìng gélí 硬隔离)

The word popped up on Chinese social media on April 23rd after some Shanghai netizens posted photos of fences being set up around their community building to keep residents from walking out.

“New word: hard isolation. Shanghai is rotten to the core,” one commenter wrote.

The word soon turned into a hashtag page where people started commenting on the issue of fences being placed around residential buildings, voicing concerns on what a fence around buildings would mean for fire safety, especially after online rumors suggested that there had been a fire at one community in Pudong on Saturday night.

An official document regarding the ‘hard isolation’ measure was also shared online on Saturday. It is dated April 23, 2022, and its source is the Pudong New Area Office for Epidemic Control.

The document states that in line with the guidelines for the city’s epidemic prevention and control, the division between areas or zones that are in certain risk categories should be ‘optimized,’ with those in the high-risk category requiring a ‘hard isolation.’ Security guards should also be on duty 24 hours a day at the entrance of the buildings.

Earlier this month, Shanghai adopted “3-level control measures” after its initial phased lockdown. It means that local areas will be classified as “locked-down,” “controlled” or “precautionary,” based on their Covid19 risk.

“Could we also put fences around the homes of Shanghai leaders?”, one person suggested, while others posted images from the Walking Dead to mock the situation.

In the hope of Shanghai soon tackling the Covid situation, not everybody disagreed with the decision to fence some buildings or communities in the Pudong area: “I don’t disagree with it, as long as there is always someone there to open the fence in case of fire,” one person stated.

Although having a fence around their building is currently not a reality for most in Shanghai, the online photos of some communities seeing their buildings being fenced up is a reason to worry for some: “It’s been 40 days, and now they start hard isolation? This actually scares me. Before we know it, it’s June.”

One Weibo user asked: “Why is it possible to implement this hard isolation now? Was this created by the same persons who also implemented the rule to separate children from parents at isolation sites?”

“I truly can’t imagine why some people thought this is a good idea,” others wrote.

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at

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