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Mother of Eight Found Chained Up in Shed Next to Family Home in Xuzhou

“Do you even treat this woman as a human being?”

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A TikTok video showing a mother of eight living in a small hut with an iron chain around her neck has sent shockwaves across Chinese social media. According to local authorities, the woman is suffering from mental illness and is currently receiving care. But many netizens are still waiting for answers.

Video footage showing a woman from a village in Xuzhou, Jiangsu, being chained up and living in appalling conditions has shocked Chinese netizens this week.

The story went viral after a vlogger filmed the woman’s living conditions while visiting Huankou village in Feng County on Wednesday, the 26th of January. The man who visited the woman has an account on TikTok (Douyin) focused on showing the stories and circumstances of disadvantaged people.

The TikTok video first shows the vlogger talking to children inside the home; the woman is claimed to be the mother of eight children in total. They tell the man that their mother is brought food every day. The vlogger then walks up to an old doorless shed next to the house, where he finds the woman with an iron chain around her neck, wearing no coat in the middle of winter.

The man offers to bring the woman some warm clothes. He also finds that the food on the table is cold, as it is zero degrees outside. The woman does not really seem to understand what the man is saying and she has a glazed look in her eyes.

After getting a jacket for her, the man then returns to the shed and helps the woman put on the jacket. This time, it appears that another person is filming and the man turns to the camera and says: “What this woman is put through in this cold.. where did the compassion go?”

The video caused a storm on social media, where many were quick to draw comparisons to the 2007 movie Blind Mountain (盲山). That movie, directed by Li Yang, tells the story of a woman named Bai who is kidnapped and sold to a villager in the mountains, leaving Bai completely trapped.

Many netizens worried about the woman’s circumstances. Why was she chained up? Was she a victim of human trafficking? Was she being abused? Was she forced to have so many children? What happened to her teeth? While netizens were speculating about the case and venting their anger, Weibo shut down some of the hashtags dedicated to this topic.

On Friday, January 28, Feng County authorities responded to the controversy, claiming the woman and her husband named Dong were married in 1998 and that the woman developed a mental illness involving violent behavior. The woman, named Yang, previously would display sudden violent outbursts, beating children and older people. The family allegedly thought it was best to separate her from the family home, letting her stay in a small hut next to the house. The vlogger allegedly caught the woman as she had just woken up, suggesting this would explain her clothes and messy hair.

Authorities further stated that they could confirm that Yang is not a victim of human trafficking. They also said that Feng County and the Women’s Federation are now involved in helping the family. Yang is reportedly receiving care and the family is also provided additional assistance “to ensure they will have a warm Spring Festival.”

The hashtag “Official Announcement Regarding the Circumstances of the Xuzhou Woman with Eight Kids” (#官方通报徐州丰县生育八孩女子情况#) received over 150 million views by Saturday.

Popular WeChat blogging account NewsBro wrote about the story on Friday, saying that the officials who came up with the aforementioned statement must have just released what they had on file about the family without actually seeing for themselves how the woman was kept in the small hut. Even though it is probably true that Yang suffers from a mental illness, NewsBro says, it does not excuse her being mistreated like this and letting her live chained up in the cold.

Many netizens are also not satisfied with how authorities have responded to this issue, condemning the fact that their statements blatantly ignore how Yang was chained up and also questioning why a mentally ill woman was able to have eight children at all. “Do you even treat this woman as a human being?”, one top commenter wondered, with many others wondering how this situation apparently was not seen as a crime.

“Where are her parents?” others asked. “A ‘warm Spring Festival’?! Did you even see the iron chain around her neck?! This woman needs to be treated at a hospital instead of being imprisoned in her own home while having children,” another person wrote.

Manga artist Yaduo (@呀哆) shared a drawing focused on Yang’s story on Weibo, showing a chained up woman and a total of eight children. Outside the door you see the children’s father, wearing a mask while talking to a reporter.

Drawing by @呀哆.

This refers to another video in which Dong, Yang’s husband, is being interviewed and tells how he struggles to take care of their eight children, saying that he is basically taking care and cooking for “nine children,” including his wife.

Dong allegedly also opened up his own TikTok account, although at the time of writing, that account no longer seemed available.

On Saturday night, some Weibo bloggers claimed that Yang has now been admitted to a psychiatric hospital and that the children have currently been relocated by local authorities, but these claims were not confirmed by official sources at the time of writing.

Various tragic stories about Chinese people from disadvantaged backgrounds have recently led to online turmoil, such as the story about the migrant worker with Covid19 who spent all his money on the search for his missing son and the student who committed suicide after discovering his parents sold him as a child.

Just before Yang’s circumstances gained traction online, Chinese state media outlet China Daily focused on the recent public attention for stories featuring social problems.1 According to Dr. Liu Leming, associate professor at East China University’s Political Science faculty, government agencies need to follow up and respond more quickly to social incidents like these in the internet era: “When public issues emerge, people who are involved in social problems or incidents want to know, more than anything, whether their requests have been seen and who will handle their concerns.”

For now, thousands of netizens are waiting for another update on Yang, wishing a better life for her in the near future.

Update Jan 30 2022: we will update this story if more official statements come out, meanwhile, you can also follow the latest updates on Twitter here:

February 2022: for updates, check here.

 

By Manya Koetse

1 Cao Yin and Li Yang. 2022. “Policymakers, Lawmakers Respond to Opinion Voiced Online.” China Daily Hong Kong, January 28, Page 1-2.

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 info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. 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 hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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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.

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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 http://www.china.org.cn/environment/2012-04/16/content_25152066.htm [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.

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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 UDN.com.

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] Weibo.com.

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

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