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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, February 25, 2024

Kolumn: What’s more needed than ‘protecting ourselves’

kolumn

Content warning: This column discusses human trafficking.

The city Xuzhou is a center of transportation in eastern China and a major city in the Jiangsu Province. However, with the exposure of the Xuzhou Feng County incident on Jan. 28, it is worth considering the impact of human trafficking on its sizeable population.

The incident came to light from a sequence of videos of a woman with a chain around her neck that was taken by a man in the rural area of Feng County. Before the video went viral on Tiktok (known in China as Douyin), there was already concern about human trafficking in rural China.

The incident sparked outrage on the internet at once, but netizens sadly found that the government of Feng County released a statement trying to justify the wrongdoing with the woman’s reported mental illness.

Related speech was quickly censored, even more strictly as the incident fermented under the ongoing Chinese Spring Festival and 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. This intersection of national joy and glory with governmental suppression is an interesting one. It directed the state media’s reporting — while the former celebrations were seen on a daily basis on the CCTV News Broadcast, the Xuzhou incident had only the internet as its limited opinion field.

As for myself, I have been intentionally avoiding delving into this heartbreaking incident from the beginning. Certainly, no single woman can be indifferent to it, but my particular escapism to the horrors of this incident comes from an unwillingness to relate to the pain. Moreover, I feel it is easier to know only the result without getting enmeshed in the process.

However, my mother, after seeing the news, expressed her worries about letting me travel alone. She solemnly warned me that I must “protect myself” whenever I go out, because the human trafficking victim in Xuzhou could have been me — it could have been anyone.

While self-protection is necessary, what is more needed are stronger penalties for criminal gangs guilty of human trafficking and more severe sentences for the sale of human beings, which currently is a maximum of three years in prison in China — a lighter punishment than that for purchasing an endangered wild animal.

The country should also conduct fundamental reform of corrupt government personnel, as well as educate people from a young age instead of pretending everything is fine by muting speech.

As for ourselves, we should not be blind to social issues like this. It is important to acknowledge not just the success when a girl gets a medal around her neck but also the abuse when another girl gets chains around hers.