A video of a woman being violently dragged from a home she shared with her prospective husband because he apparently could not afford a 500,000 yuan (S$106,000) bride price went viral on the Chinese internet over the weekend.
Amid a torrent of outrage and abuse, the woman, surnamed Gao, urged netizens to stop cyberbullying her family, which she said had got out of control.
Her boyfriend, surnamed Zhang, posted the video on Bilibili, a Chinese video-sharing platform. He said Gao was physically removed from their new home after her parent’s opposed the marriage because he could not afford the bride price .
In the video, Gao was pulled out of her house in Yinchuan, in Ningxia autonomous region in northwest China, and, at one moment, was dragged along the ground when she fell. Zhang tried to stop Gao’s family as they forced her into their car, only to get pushed to the ground.
The video triggered a public outcry from people who said there was too much parental interference in marriages in China.
Zhang said in the post: “We have been together for six years and, with our joint efforts, we now own property. We are planning to start a family. Our property is under her name to ease concerns from her mother, but the marriage has still been met with strong opposition.”
“They said they would only agree if I paid a 500,000 yuan bride price, even if we have to sell our home to do this,” he said.
Zhang called the police after the confrontation. In a statement issued on Sunday, the public security bureau of Yinchuan’s Xixia district said Gao and her family have agreed to talk through the disagreement. The officers have warned Gao’s parents against restricting her freedom of movement.
The aftermath of the video going viral highlighted another social problem in China: cyberbullying.
Gao said the story told by Zhang omitted key information, such as that the 500,000 yuan bride price request was made in a moment of anger and the family never intended on collecting the money.
Gao said her parents were upset because she had only told them about Zhang six months ago, even though they had been together for six years.
“After I cooled off at home, I found that public opinion has got out of control, and I hope people can analyse the situation rationally and stop cyberbullying us,” she said.
Many critics said the parents were using their daughter as a commodity for sale. One commenter wrote on Weibo: “This is not what parents can do, but human traffickers”.
Reports about young women, and even minors, being forced into marriage for the bride price have made headlines in the past year, including a 14-year-old teenager in Ningxia who called the police on her own wedding to break up a forced marriage.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.