US Woman Becomes Hero for Battered Wives in China

Kim Lee, the American wife of celebrity English teacher Li Yang, has become the focus of media attention in China after she used her weibo account to publicize evidence that her husband had brutally beaten her. AP reports on how her story has helped launch a debate in China over domestic violence:

Domestic violence everywhere lives in the shadows, and in China it thrives in a secrecy instilled by tradition that holds family conflicts to be private. It is also hard to go public in a country where many still consider women subservient to their husbands, and there is no specific national law against domestic violence.
At least one in four women in China is estimated to have been a victim of domestic violence at some point in her life, surveys show, with the rate in rural areas as high as two out of every three women. The violence takes many forms, from physical and sexual assault to emotional abuse or economic deprivation.
Lee’s case has spawned tens of thousands of postings on Chinese Twitter-like sites, along with protests and talk show debates. It is especially explosive because she is a foreigner, at a time when China is particularly sensitive about how it is understood and treated by the world.
“A lot of people said, ‘Oh, is it because Kim is an American and so she’s too strong-willed, or her personality is too strong?’…Some others have asked whether she is making a big fuss over a small issue,” says Feng Yuan, founder and chair of the Anti-Domestic Violence Network in Beijing. “This shows that in terms of the public perception of domestic violence, we still have a long way to go.”
Read more about domestic violence in China via CDT, including a recent article in Ms. Magazine, “Wives Caught in

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2 Responses to US Woman Becomes Hero for Battered Wives in China

  1. Jackson says:

    Just before Christmas a friend of mine was informed by his girlfriend
    of 2-1/2 years that her parents had made an agreement that she would
    marry some guy back in her village to satisfy a 50,000 RMB debt
    incurred when her father had a heart operation.

    A university graduate in Beijing, she is still the dutiful daughter,
    and within a week packed off to a poor village outside Harbin. Already
    shattered by leaving everything behind including the man she cared
    for, she was slapped around by her husband to be. He may not have
    meant it — he was complete drunk every night. She spent several weeks
    trying to deal with all this and was unable to really eat or sleep.

    Finally she made a desperate call to my friend who agreed to pay the
    debt — which the “groom” tried to raise to 100,000 RMB. Finally they
    negotiated down to 65,000. They let her go and she returned last week.
    The man let her go because she was uncooperative and “no good”.

    While cynics would try to say this is a scam, I know these people and
    know the girl is sincere — she is still very shaken by the whole
    thing.

    She said that if she couldn’t get out of it she was going to kill herself.

    This got me thinking about the whole issue so I did a little research:

    * China has the highest female suicide rate in the world
    * A woman kills herself every four minutes in China
    * The deal this girl’s mother made is absolutely illegal in modern China

    I contacted a China women’s rights group — and they responded not
    with the usual platitudes and quotations of the law but with phone
    numbers of agencies in Harbin and a desire to get more information to
    help this girl. I was impressed with the response.

    In in the end, I guess it worked out OK, but how many others are there like this? Certainly tens of millions. Indeed, China’s dirty family “secret”.

  2. Will says:

    The CCP has passed all sorts of laws against subversion and endangering state security, but can’t be bothered to pass a law against domestic violence or wife-beating. This tells you quite a lot about the Party’s priorities.