A woman who was trafficked 20 years ago to be a villager's wife has pleaded to be left alone after she found herself in midst of an online controversy, reported the Beijing News on Friday.
Gao Yanmin, who was deceived into marriage two decades ago, hit the headlines this week when many Internet users began demanding that those behind her trafficking should be punished.
Chen Shiqu, chief of the Anti-trafficking Office of China's Ministry of Public Security, said on Thursday that an investigation into the case has been launched.
"Our family is terrified. My father-in-law is over 70. What should we do if he got arrested?" Gao told a friend.
Gao's father-in-law is the person who paid 2,700 yuan (S$597) to traffickers for Gao to be his son's wife.
According to her friend, police has visited her family two days in a row as part of the probe.
Gao was declared a role model by the authorities in 2006.
Gao, who is a teacher, said that she was worried that she will not be able to teach any longer, adding that those students who count on her will suffer.
Although she tried to run away from the family after she was trafficked, now after so many years it seems impossible for her to leave them. Her life is deeply intertwined with this family.
Her marriage also produced a son and daughter, and one of them is about to apply for college next year.
Initially, she tried to run away but her husband tracked her down and beat her up. During the early years she made three suicide attempts.
She even once went back to her hometown and to her parents a year later under the escort of her husband but her parents gave her cold shoulder. With huge disappointment, she went back to the family and settled down ever since.
Gao treated her parents-in-laws as her real parents and took care of the whole family, including her husband, who suffered from back injury. She told reporters Thursday that her husband now treats her well and respects her.
She works as a substitute teacher in a local primary school that lacks resources and teachers. Gao recalls students cheering and screaming "finally we have a teacher" on her first day.
"They placed their hopes on me, and I found my hope to live on," Gao said.
When her story generated public sympathy and anger toward the authorities, Gao felt she could be in trouble.
"As long as I can keep being a teacher, I can bear anything."
A written statement has been announced from Gao through local county public relations department on Thursday afternoon, saying "Thanks for the care from all the news outlets and people. I'm sorry. I want to have a quiet life now and wish there's no harm to my family. Everyone of my family is feeling bad because of me. I want my family members to be safe and sound and my children not to be disturbed."
According to Han Xiao, an attorney in Jingrun & Partners, action against traffickers is limited to 20 years. If it is over two decades, as in Gao's case, there will be no criminal prosecution unless some exceptions.
As for buyers, action is limited to five years which is clearly also out of date in Gao's case.
Han Xiao said people who were trafficked have the right to decide if they want to stay with the family that bought them.
"Gao deserves the understanding and respect of the public to stay there and be a teacher. More harm will be done if people force their will on her rather than her own."
Gao Yanmin told media on Thursday that traffickers should be punished instead of her family.