Mother of eight children/66 lawyers sign a petition to increase the penalty for abduction and trafficking, the authorities blocked information

Chinese lawyer Wang Cailiang posted a painting of a “chained woman” on his Weibo account to show his concern for the trafficking of women and children in China.

In China, the controversy surrounding the “Xuzhou woman in chains” did not die down with the fifth notification from the Jiangsu Provincial Bureau. On the eve of the notification, 66 Chinese lawyers signed a petition calling for a revision of China’s criminal law to strengthen the penalties for trafficking, but the message was immediately blocked and deleted by the Chinese Communist authorities.

According to “Free Weibo,” which follows and retains the deleted messages on Weibo, the 66 co-signed lawyers pointed out that according to Article 241 of China’s Criminal Law, anyone who buys a woman or child who has been abducted or sold shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of up to three years, detention or control. The proponents argue that the relevant penalties are significantly lenient, and that the Criminal Law even provides for “lighter” or “lighter” sentences if there is no abuse of the purchased child and no impediment to the rescue of the child. In their view, such a significantly lesser degree is far beyond the reasonable range.

Some of the lawyers suggested that Article 241 of the Criminal Law should be amended to significantly increase the lower and upper limits of prison sentences and to delete the provision on “mitigated punishment”. According to the monitoring of “Free Weibo,” the statement was announced on Weibo at 8:00 a.m. on Monday (21), but was immediately deleted by the authorities four hours later.

Among the 66 lawyers who signed the statement was Wu Danhong, a prominent scholar and opinion leader with nearly 1.29 million followers on his Weibo account “Wu Laosi”.

The 66 lawyers signed a petition calling for heavier penalties for trafficking. (Screenshot)

In addition, a legal scholar searched 245 judicial documents and found a large number of cases proving that the Chinese judiciary disregarded the fact that trafficking was explicitly raised in divorce proceedings and failed to fulfill the minimum obligation of referral; for example, the victim was required to prove that she was trafficked, and even when trafficking was found, it was not considered to constitute a “breakdown of marital relations” and the divorce was denied.

In January 2022, a case of kidnapping and human trafficking of a woman in Huankou Town, Feng County, Xuzhou City, Jiangsu Province, came to light. A video of a mentally abnormal and imprisoned woman who allegedly gave birth to eight children went viral, and the incident eventually sparked a huge public controversy as multiple investigators uncovered the truth. During this period, the local government at all levels issued four announcements, but none of them quelled public anger. Public opinion used the incident to call on the government to protect rural Chinese women and those suffering from mental illness, to combat trafficking and sexual abuse of women and children in rural China, and to question the malfeasance of the local government in the case.