To avoid this, the girl fled from her home in southwestern Sichuan province to work as a migrant worker in a factory in Guangdong.
The girl is seen above talking with police after she made her escape at a roadside service centre. Photo: The Paper
The girl is seen above talking with police after she made her escape at a roadside service centre.
The intended groom and several family members later travelled to Guangdong to look for the girl. They found her working at a factory, dragged her out of her dormitory and forced her into a car, planning to return to their hometown in Sichuan, about 1,500km away.
When they stopped for a rest at a service station on the expressway, the girl used the opportunity to flee, telling them she needed to use the toilet. She then asked the staff to help her and call the police.
Three days later, the girl’s father and her brother arrived in the county to collect the girl. Local civil affairs and women’s federation officials persuaded her family to drop the idea of sending her to marry at such a young age. The officials also provided psychological guidance for the girl before her family took her back to Sichuan.
“If I had not met you, I would not have known what to do, nor what would happen to me. I am so grateful to you,” the girl said to the service station’s workers.
The minimum legal age for marriage in China is 22 for men and 20 for women. Despite this, it was not clear from the police whether her kidnappers or the family members who sold her had been detained or were likely to face legal punishment.
Police helped mediate in the case although concerns were raised online because it was unclear what would happen to the girl once she returned home. Photo: The Paper
The lack of details on what, if any, action would be taken and the fact the girl was allowed to return to her family who had sold her in the first place, left many mainland internet users concerned for her wellbeing.
“I am afraid her family will guard her closely. It’s more difficult for her to escape again,” one Weibo user warned.
Another commented: “When she reported it to the police, she hoped to be rescued from her poor fate instead of returning home.”
Arranged and forced marriages for cash, or bride prices as they are euphemistically known in China, are still common in some parts of the country, especially remote areas where feudal ideas about marriage, gender and consent persist.
In 2021, a couple in a rural area of the northwestern Ningxia Hui autonomous region collected a 250,000 yuan (US$36,000) bride price from a man and then forced their 14-year-old daughter to marry him. The girl was rescued after she managed to contact the police. However, the police mediated between the families rather than detaining anyone involved or pursuing criminal charges.