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Follow-Up to the Story of the Xuzhou Mother-of-Eight Chained in Hut

The Xuzhou mother-of-eight turns out to be Xiao Huamei from a Yunnan village.



The Xuzhou mother-of-eight who was found to be chained inside a small hut next to the family home has already become one of the biggest social stories on Weibo this year. Now, local authorities have provided an update on their ongoing investigation into the woman’s background.

Find the latest update to this story here.

It’s been well over a week since the story of a mother of eight children living in a small hut with an iron chain around her neck sent shockwaves across Chinese social media (link).

The story first went viral on January 28 after a Chinese vlogger showed the horrifying living conditions of the woman in a short video.

The footage, filmed in Xuzhou, was widely shared on Chinese social media and triggered massive outrage. Since it was said that the woman suffers from mental illness, netizens asked how it was possible for her to have no less than eight children with her husband.

How was this all even legal? Many netizens wondered if the woman was abducted and kept against her will and abused as some sort of breeding machine by her husband and his family. The fact that the couple had seven sons and only one daughter also fuelled online rumors, and there was also a lot of speculation about why Yang seemed to have lost her teeth.

On January 30, local officials responded to the controversy. In a statement issued by the ‘Feng County Joint Investigation Team,’ the situation of the woman and her husband was partly explained. The woman, Yang *Xia (杨某侠), reportedly was a beggar on the streets in the summer of 1998 when she was taken in by the Dong family in the town of Huankou and she ended up marrying their 30-something son Dong *Min (董某民).

According to the statement, the local officials did not properly check and verify Yang’s identity information when they registered the marriage certificate. The local family planning department apparently also made some errors. They did “implement birth control measures” after the couple had two children, but that obviously did not work out and they failed to follow up.

The family did notice that Yang had mental problems, but her condition allegedly did not worsen until June of 2021 when she would also display aggressive and violent behavior. In order to prevent her from hitting the children or others, she would be tied up by her husband until she was more stable. The statement further said that Yang’s DNA was entered into the national database for missing persons in 2020, but that no match was found.

Feng County authorities claimed that following the online controversy, Yang was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was receiving treatment in the hospital, while a special team was also investigating if Dong could be held criminally liable.

The statement did not succeed in calming the storm. On the contrary, it only seemed to spark more anger as netizens now also knew that the family was receiving subsidies from their town and that Dong *Min was profiting from his sudden online ‘fame’ by creating his own online channel and appearing in several local marketing promotional videos. The fact that many posts, videos, and hashtags relating to this story were taken offline only added fuel to the fire.


Yang is actually Xiao Huamei

On Monday, February 7th, at 23:00 pm, Xuzhou authorities released an update to the investigation on Weibo.

Because Yang’s marriage certificate contained mention of Yagu Village (亚谷村) in Fugong County in Yunnan Province, investigators went there to do research. With the help of local authorities, villagers, and household registers, they were able to determine Yang’s identity.

Her name is Xiao Huamei (小花梅) and she was born and raised in Yagu. In 1994, she married and moved to the city of Baoshan, but she divorced and returned to her village two years later, which is also when local villagers remember detecting that Xiao seemed to have a disorder. Her parents, now deceased, ordered a female fellow villager who had married someone from Jiangsu to take Xiao with her to receive treatment and look for a suitable partner for marriage.

Although the woman took Xiao with her on a train from Yunnan’s Kunming city to Jiangsu’s Donghai, Xiao went missing shortly after arrival. The woman, named Sang (桑), never reported Xiao Huamei missing to the police and she also did not notify Xiao’s family. Local authorities have spoken to Sang and they will later follow up on this story.

As for the current situation of Yang (or Xiao), they state that her condition has stabilized and that she is received proper treatment for her schizophrenia. Medical reports indicate that Yang lost her teeth due to a severe gum infection but her overall health is otherwise normal.

The Xuzhou authorities further write that DNA research has confirmed that all of the eight children are the parents’ biological children.

Although the statement does say that the public security bureau is still looking into Dong’s criminal liability, it does not provide any information on the current living situation of Xiao, Dong, and their eight children.

In the early morning of February 8, the statement had been shared over 112,000 times on Weibo, getting over 1,3 million likes and garnering thousands of comments.


Not Only Yang

Despite the most recent statement, Weibo netizens still have many questions about the situation and the online anger has not subsided. A much-recurring comment is that the statement is mentioning trivial things while ignoring major issues. It does not disclose, for example, how old Yang is now and whether or not she was still a minor in 1998.

Some mention how the public’s trust in the local authorities is gone, others say they suspect that the female villager named Sang might have been a human trafficker, and then there are those who still believe that the mother-of-eight still has another identity.

Those talking about a “third identity” refer to one theory that kept surfacing over the past week, namely that the Xuzhou mother is actually Li Ying (李莹), a woman who went missing in 1996. Old photos of Li showed a remarkable resemblance to the Xuzhou woman.

Yang’s face compared to an older photo of the missing woman Li Ying.

But Chinese media outlet The Paper reported on Monday that the family of Li Ying received official confirmation that there is no DNA match between Li Ying and Yang.

Besides the fact that the online anger over Yang’s situation helped launch a local investigation into her identity and circumstances, it has also raised more awareness of the fact that there might be many more women like her.

Another recent video shows how a disabled woman who is also said to be living in a village in Xuzhou, Feng County, is kept chained on the floor.

Some netizens are saying that (e-commerce) products from Xuzhou and Feng County should be boycotted as a way to condemn the local government. Others are sharing art dedicated to Yang.

One of many online illustrations dedicated to Yang.

“Why are these statements always posted so late at night?” some sleepless netizens wonder: “I am so angry I can no longer sleep.”

Many people are still waiting for more answers: “Please investigate thoroughly, please punish severely, don’t be overly tolerant, no forgiveness.”

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes.

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

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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  1. Heidi Mahon

    February 8, 2022 at 12:03 am

    Lol are Chinese netizens ever anything else but outraged ,makes you wonder how some of them ever find the time to get off social media and do anything else ? . Think maybe some of them need to find a job

  2. Tanya Glover

    February 10, 2022 at 12:11 am

    Says the person who took the time to make ride and snarky comments about strangers online.

  3. Jessie

    February 14, 2022 at 7:55 pm

    Excuse me? You aren’t outraged by domestic abuse and human trafficking? Is something missing in your head up there? Or do you see Chinese people as less than human and think it’s OK that this is happening to the women over there. Shame on you really, because this happens to women around the world, including in western countries.

  4. B M

    March 26, 2022 at 2:52 pm

    The woman IS Li Ying, the daughter of Chinese Liberation Army parents. THAT is why they concocted this BS story about some mentally handicapped beggar — this is a total communist lie and you’re just repeating it here, shame on you.

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China Animals

‘Welcome Home, Molly’ – Chinese Zoo Elephant Returns to Kunming after Online Protest

One small step for animal protection in China, one giant leap for Molly the elephant.



Following online protest and the efforts of animal activists, Molly has returned to the Kunming Zoo where she was born and where mother elephant Mopo is.

The little elephant named Molly is a big topic of discussion on Chinese social media recently.

The popular Asian elephant, born in the Kunming Zoo in 2016, was separated from her mother at the age of two in April of 2018. Molly was then transferred from Kunming Zoo to Qinyang, Jiaozuo (Henan), in exchange for another elephant. Over the past few years, fans of Molly started voicing their concerns online as the elephant was trained to do tricks and performances and to carry around tourists on her back at the Qinyang Swan Lake Ecological Garden (沁阳天鹅湖生态园), the Qinyang Hesheng Forest Zoo (沁阳和生森林动物园), the Jiaozuo Forestry Zoo (焦作森林动物园), and the Zhoukou Safari Park (周口野生动物世界).

Since the summer of 2021, more people started speaking out for Molly’s welfare when they spotted the elephant chained up and seemingly unhappy, forced to do handstands or play harmonica, with Molly’s handlers using iron hooks to coerce her into performing.

Earlier this month, Molly became a big topic on Chinese social media again due to various big accounts on Xiaohongshu and Weibo posting about the ‘Save Molly’ campaign and calling for an elephant performance ban in China (read more).

Although zookeepers denied any animal abuse and previously stated that the elephant is kept in good living conditions and that animal performances are no longer taking place, Molly’s story saw an unexpected turn this week. Thanks to the efforts of online netizens, Molly fans, and animal welfare activists, Molly was removed from Qinyang.

A popular edited image of Molly that has been shared a lot online.

On May 15, the Henan Forestry Bureau – which regulates the holding of all exotic species, including those in city zoos – announced that Molly would return to Kunming in order to provide “better living circumstances” for the elephant. A day later, on Monday, Molly left Qinyang and returned to the Kunming Zoo where she was born. In Kunming, Molly will first receive a thorough health check during the observation period.

Official announcement regarding Molly by the Henan Forestry Administration.

Many online commenters were happy to see Molly returning home. “Finally! This is great news,” many wrote, with others saying: “Please be good to her” and “Finally, after four years of hardship, Molly will be reunited with her mother.”

Besides regular Weibo accounts celebrating Molly’s return to Kunming, various Chinese state media accounts and official accounts (e.g. the Liaocheng Communist Youth League) also posted about Molly’s case and wished her a warm welcome and good wishes. One Weibo post on the matter by China News received over 76,000 likes on Monday.

Although many view the effective online ‘Save Molly’ campaign as an important milestone for animal welfare in China, some animal activists remind others that there are still other elephants in Chinese zoos who need help and better wildlife protection laws. Among them are the elephant Kamuli (卡目里) and two others who are still left in Qinyang.

For years, animal welfare activists in China and in other countries have been calling for Chinese animal protection laws. China does have wildlife protection laws, but they are often conflicting and do not apply to pets and there is no clear anti-animal abuse law.

“I’ll continue to follow this. What are the next arrangements? What is the plan for Molly and the other elephants? How will you guarantee a safe and proper living environment?”

Another Weibo user writes: “This is just a first step, there is much more to be done.”

To follow more updates regarding Molly, check out Twitter user ‘Diving Paddler’ here. We thank them for their contributions to this article.

To read more about zoos and wildlife parks causing online commotion in China, check our articles here.

By Manya Koetse

References (other sources linked to within text)

Arcus Foundation (Ed.). 2021. State of the Apes: Killing, Capture, Trade and Ape Conservation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

China Daily. 2012. “Animal Rights Groups Seek Performance Ban.” China Daily, April 16 [Accessed May 1 2022].

Li, Peter J. 2021. Animal Welfare in China: Culture, Politics and Crisis. Sydney: Sydney University Press.

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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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