A Chinese court on Friday sentenced six people to jail for their roles in the human trafficking and abuse of a woman whose appearance in an online video showing her chained by the neck sparked a public outcry.
The Xuzhou Intermediate People’s Court in Jiangsu province sentenced Dong Zhimin to nine years for the torture and illegal imprisonment of the woman and five others to terms ranging from eight to 13 years for her abduction, sale and imprisonment.
The woman, referred to as “Little Huamei” (Little Blossom) in court records, is thought to have been abducted and sold on several occasions, and to have given birth to eight children by her final captor.
The first time she was abducted, she was taken from her home province of Yunnan, in the southwest of China, at the beginning of 1998 and sold to a farmer in Jiangsu, an eastern coastal province, for the equivalent of $1,180.
She then disappeared in mid-1998 before being spotted in Henan province, central China, where she was sold to human traffickers for the equivalent of $700, according to court documents cited by Chinese state media.
Those traffickers then took her back to Jiangsu later that year and sold her to Dong and his father, again for $1,180.
From 1999 to 2017, she was “basically able to take care of herself and communicate with others,” according to the court documents.
But after that, Dong kept her chained in a room without sunlight, electricity or running water.
Between 1999 and 2020, she gave birth to eight of Dong’s children and has since been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
The case caused uproar on Chinese social media after videos of Little Huamei chained emerged online.
Local authorities initially claimed no trafficking had occurred, but criminal charges were brought in 2022 after the central government formed a special investigative team to look into the case.