Xuzhou Chained woman; Behind China’s Olympics

Xuzhou Chained woman
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Xuzhou Chained woman; Behind China’s Olympics

The post, on China’s Weibo social platform, resembled many others posted by official media during these Olympics — an ode to freestyle skier Eileen Gu, known to Chinese as Gu Ailing.

Underneath, in the comments from users, came the questions. They were not on topic. They were about something else entirely — a chained woman captured in a viral video 500 miles from Beijing, on the southeastern China coast.

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“Can you pay attention to Feng county? Where’s the responsibility of national media?” one user asked. Said another on the Xuzhou Chained woman: “Please thoroughly investigate the chained mother in Xuzhou so that every Chinese girl can accept the freedom and power given to them by this great era, just like our Ailing.”

Since Jan. 28, the story of the chained woman who appeared in the video has continued to grow, evading numerous censors both digital and human. Underneath much Olympics coverage — from stories about copyright violations of mascot Bing Dwen Dwen to Gu’s every move — Chinese commenters exhorted national media to highlight the growing scandal.

Even as the original accounts that shared the video disappeared and censors on social media platforms deleted articles and hashtags, amateur sleuths have kept the story alive online.

It is one case, one woman in a population of 1.4 billion at a moment when the Olympics are commanding a chunk of the national bandwidth. But as it unfolds, it affords a glimpse into what’s happening in China behind the Winter Games — and how people advocate for causes even in the widely censored, politically fraught space of Chinese social media.

Here’s how it unfolded:

Days before the Lunar New Year holiday began on Feb. 1, a video spread online from a village in Feng county, located in Jiangsu province on the coast. It showed a woman with a chain around her neck.

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The chain wasn’t the subject of the video. A blogger had visited the village to show her as an example of someone from a poor rural family that would benefit from donations.

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