Chinese authorities have launched a criminal investigation of nine people in connection with a woman who appeared chained by the neck in a video on social media that went viral and sparked a public outcry, state media reported on Wednesday.
The video, which surfaced in late January, showed the woman in an apparently confused state in the eastern province of Jiangsu and was seen by millions, stirring debate over the treatment of women and issues including the trafficking of brides.
As well as the nine facing criminal investigation, 17 county-level officials have been punished in connection with the case, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
Investigators said the woman, 44, originally from the southwestern province of Yunnan, was sold twice by human traffickers in Feng county, the first time in 1997 for 5,000 yuan ($800), CCTV said.
She ran away the following year and ended up with her current husband after being sold to his father, CCTV said.
The broadcaster said the woman had eight children with her current husband, seven of them over nine years until 2020. Her mental state worsened after giving birth to the third child in 2012, the investigation team said, according to CCTV.
Nine people who were directly involved in the selling and buying of the woman in Feng County were either arrested or put under criminal investigation for abuse or trafficking of women, CCTV said.
The county’s Communist Party chief, Lou Hai and its governor, Zheng Chunwei, were dismissed from their posts for failing to “uphold people’s rights and interests” and for approving the release of incorrect statements that “caused severe bad influence”, CCTV reported.
Another 15 county officials received lesser punishments.
The county government had previously issued conflicting statements that had added to public anger over the case, CCTV said.
Doctors diagnosed the woman with schizophrenia and she is being treated at a hospital, it said.